New App Allows Grand Island Parents to Track School Buses

Back to SchoolSchool is back in session in the Grand Island Central School District, but this year local parents have access to a handy new tool that makes it easier for them to make sure their kids get to and from school safely each day.

Starting this week, parents can download a free app called My Stop that allows them to track their children’s bus routes from a computer or smartphone.

The My Stop app works in conjunction with the GPS tracking devices installed on every school bus in the Grand Island Central School District. Using the app, parents can monitor the progress of their children’s bus in real time and view the estimated time of arrival at their bus stop. In the event of a delay in a bus’s arrival, the app will also provide parents with details explaining the cause of the delay.

“We’re taking safety and putting it in the palms of parents hands,” said Grand Island Central School District Transportation Supervisor Theresa Alizadeh in a recent interview. “Parents want to know where their students are.”

My Stop can be accessed by both students and parents using a unique Student ID that serves as a user name. Currently, the app is only available for morning and afternoon school bus routes – not for field trips, activity buses and other non-public school routes.

Although this is the first year My Stop is being used on Grand Island, it’s already been successfully deployed in several other school districts around Western New York. Parents interested in learning more about how to get the most out of My Stop can visit the school district’s web page here.

Labor Day Weekend in Western New York Has Plenty to Offer

Fort Niagara BarracksThere will be no shortage of events and activities for Western New Yorkers to enjoy on this Labor Day weekend. In fact, with so many things going on in our area, it can be hard to decide what to do with your long weekend! That’s why we’ve put together a short list of a few of our favorite Labor Day events to enjoy around our community at Town Hall Terrace.

Buffalo Chicken Wing Fest

It wouldn’t be Labor Day in Buffalo without the National Wing Festival! The festival returns to Sahlen Field for it’s 18th year this weekend, offering a stunning variety of chicken wing options from both local restaurants and others from all around the country. This year, ranch dressing will be available at the festival for the first time in its history!

Hop Harvest Festival

Beer lovers can celebrate our region’s rich brewing history at the Hop Harvest Festival in Mumford, New York. Located at the Genesee Country Village & Museum (GCV&M), this festival gives attendees the opportunity to see how hops are grown, harvested and brewed into some of our favorite beverages. You can even sample one of GCV&M’s signature ales while you’re there!

War of 1812 Reenactment at Old Fort Niagara

For more local history, consider visiting Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown! This weekend, the 300-year-old historic landmark will transform into an authentic encampment from the War of 1812.

According to Robert Emerson, Executive Director of the Old Fort Niagara Association, “The upcoming encampment shows and tells the story of the surrender of the fort to the British, which was the last time Fort Niagara was engaged in military conflict on our Turf.”

Activities at the encampment will include battle reenactments , children’s games, military music performances and more!

For even more great Labor Day weekend ideas, check out this list from Step Out Buffalo!

The Grand Island Bridge Will Become a Movie Set This Weekend

Grand Island BridgeThis summer, film crews have transformed several communities in Western New York into the backdrop for a new movie from writer, director and actor John Krasinski. For more than a month, A Quiet Place 2 – the sequel to last year’s highly-successful thriller – has been shooting scenes in Akron, Olcott and several other locations throughout the region.

This weekend, Grand Island will become the latest place to make an appearance in the film.

From midnight to 1 p.m. on Sunday, August 25, the northbound lane of the South Grand Island bridge will be closed for Krasinski and the rest of the crew from Paramount Pictures. Drivers can expect to encounter significant delays during this period, as northbound traffic will be diverted to a single lane on the southbound bridge. Meanwhile, New York State Police will be performing periodic traffic slowdowns and stoppages during the filming as well.

Near the end of the bridge, onlookers may be able to catch glimpses of the cast and crew on Sunday morning. Even if you’re not able to get a good look at the filming process, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to spot the Grand Island Bridge when the movie is released on March 20, 2020.

In addition to borrowing from the scenery of Western New York, the filming of A Quiet Place 2 is expected to inject a significant amount of capital into the regional economy as well. According to Empire State Development, the film will hire over 400 people and invest more than $10 million in our area.

If you miss this shoot, Paramount Pictures will be back in September to shoot more scenes at the Stenzil Street Baseball Field in North Tonawanda.

Visit the Pierce Arrow Museum in Downtown Buffalo

Antique CarDid you know that Buffalo was once home to the automaker that produced the official presidential vehicles for every president from William Howard Taft to FDR? From the early 1900s until the Great Depression, the Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company created some of the finest luxury vehicles ever made right here in Western New York. Although the company eventually fell on hard times and was forced to file bankruptcy in the late 1930s, Pierce Arrow had already forged an enduring legacy as one of America’s foremost early automakers.

Today, car enthusiasts and history buffs can still celebrate Buffalo’s rich transportation heritage at the Pierce Arrow Museum on Michigan Avenue.

Founded by Buffalo native Jim Sandoro in 2001, the Pierce Arrow Museum is a veritable treasure trove of antique cars and other automotive memorabilia spanning several decades of the 20th century. In addition to a number of beautifully-restored Pierce Arrow vehicles, the museum also includes several other Buffalo-made automobiles such as an early example of an electric car manufactured in the early 1920s.

Visitors to the museum can also see a full-scale replica of a filling station designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the corner of Michigan Avenue and Cherry Street in downtown Buffalo. Although the original filling station never came to fruition, the museum’s replica offers a fascinating look at a design that Wright called “an ornament to the pavement. With a second-story observation deck, copper roof and two 45-foot copper “totems,” the station’s design is striking even by today’s standards.

The Pierce Arrow Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day from Thursday through Monday. Admission costs $10 for adults and $5 for children. While you’re there, considering having lunch at one of the many nearby restaurants in downtown Buffalo as well!

The Erie County Fair Starts This Week in Hamburg

County FairSummer fair season is in full swing here in Western New York! The Erie County Fair is set to kick off tomorrow, bringing 12 days of rides, entertainment, food and more to the Hamburg Fairgrounds. In addition to the usual lineup of attractions, the county fair will welcome several new entertainment options this year, including one ride that longtime residents of the area might remember from their childhood.

The Sky Wheel is a fan-favorite attraction that was a regular feature at the county fair from 1963 until 1994.

Now, after more than 20 years, this 80-foot-tall double Ferris wheel will return to the fair to entertain a whole new generation of guests.

“The double Ferris wheel is one of the most requested bygone attractions that fairgoers continually ask us to bring back,” said Erie County Fair Marketing Manager Marty Biniasz in a recent interview. “. . . It also has a deep Buffalo-Niagara connection as the Sky Wheel ride was once manufactured by the Allan Herschell Co.”

Other new attractions at the 2019 Erie County Fair include an interactive camel exhibit, a mind-reading show and an “extreme trampoline” performance where athletes will perform dazzling acrobatic feats at heights of 25 feet or more in the air. The fair will also offer several new food options this year, such as pierogi poutine and a loganberry funnel cake corn dog that both kids and adults will be sure to love.

Admission to the Erie County Fair costs $12 for adults and $9 for seniors (60+). Children aged 12 and under, meanwhile, can attend the fair for free! The fair opens at noon tomorrow and runs every day until August 18.

Visit the Newly-Restored Darwin Martin Complex This Summer

Frank Lloyd WrightHere in Western New York, we’re lucky to have a few stunning examples of the work of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright right in our backyard. Until recently, however, the most notable of these structures had fallen into disrepair.

Originally constructed between 1903 and 1905, the Darwin Martin Complex is a sprawling estate that consists of a single-family home, a carriage house, glass-roofed conservatory and several other smaller structures connected by a covered walkway. Although the estate became well recognized as a shining example of some of Wright’s best work, years of neglect had taken a serious toll on the property by the early 1990s.

In 1992, the Martin House Restoration Corp. acquired the Darwin Martin Complex from the University at Buffalo and set out to restore the property to its former glory.

Now, after more than 20 years and $50 million in both public and private investments, work on the historic Darwin Martin Complex is finally complete. In addition to completely renovating the home’s interior, HHL Architects also reconstructed three buildings on the property that had been torn down during the 1960s. The final phase of the restoration effort, which involved renovating the property’s Wright-designed landscaping, was completed this month.

If you’ve never had a chance to tour the Darwin Martin Complex in the past, now is the perfect time to visit this beautiful historic property in the heart of Buffalo’s Parkside neighborhood. You can choose from several different tour options, including landscape tours, twilight tours and more. View the complete list of tour descriptions here!

The Grand Island Farmers Market Has a New Home

Farmers MarketLooking for some fresh produce to enjoy at your next summer get-together? You’re in luck! Starting this afternoon, you can find the Grand Island Farmers Market every Thursday at the Western New York Welcome Center on Alvin Road. This year, the farmers market is collaborating with the welcome center’s Taste NY Store to offer a variety of locally-grown fruits and vegetables, prepared foods and artisan products to shoppers from throughout the region.

You can even enjoy live music performances while you browse the many fresh food options at the farmers market!

“Taste NY was launched to create opportunities for farmers and local producers to showcase their goods at retail locations,” said Taste NY manager Renee Day in a recent interview. “The farmers market at the Western NY Welcome Center provides us with a new outdoor venue to achieve this goal.”

With the help of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County, the farmers market will also host a variety of activities that focus on agricultural education. If you’re not sure how to prepare some of the food you find at the farmers market, local experts will be available to answer questions and offer suggestions! Meanwhile, children and families can enjoy spending time in the nearby playground, dog park and picnic area as well.

The Grand Island Farmers Market will be at the Western New York Welcome Center every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. from now until October 10. Be sure to check it out so you can get a taste of everything our local farms have to offer!

The Allentown Art Festival Returns for Its 62nd Year

Street FestivalWith temperatures creeping into the 70s and the annual Allentown Art Festival about to begin, it’s finally starting to feel like summer in Western New York. What began as a small gathering of local artists over 60 years ago has become one of the most popular events of the season, with more than 350 vendors lining the sidewalks of Delaware Avenue, Franklin and Allen in Buffalo’s historic Allentown neighborhood.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on this Saturday and Sunday.

Among the many vendors at the festival, you can expect to find photographers, painters, sculptors, glass blowers and more. You can also enjoy performances from local musicians and sample festival food favorites such as fried dough, lemon ice, kettle corn, spiced nuts and cotton candy. With so many guests from all over the region in attendance, people watching at the festival can be an event in itself, too.

Meanwhile, west of Elmwood Avenue, a smaller alternative festival called Allen West will be happening right down the street from the main festival area as well. This mini festival tends to attract more buskers and local artists than its more well-established older sibling.

You can easily spend an entire day exploring the Allentown Art Festival, but be sure to bring your sunscreen! The forecast is calling for sunny skies and warm weather all weekend. Whether you’re a longtime fan of the festival or this is your first time attending, you can always find new things to see and do each year.

Best of all, this is just the beginning of a long season of fun summer activities in Western New York!

Amazon Is Scouting WNY for a New Distribution Facility

Distribution CenterOne of the largest tech companies in the world could be bringing a new distribution facility to Western New York, according to a recent article in The Buffalo News. Amazon already employs more than 300 people at its “sortation” center in Lancaster, and company representatives have reportedly been scouting locations for at least one new distribution facility in the Buffalo Niagara Region as well.

One candidate location for a 133,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center is in Tonawanda’s Riverview Solar Technology Park. This project was discussed at the latest monthly meeting of the town planning board, however the prospective tenant was not named under the terms of a nondisclosure agreement.

The second location that Amazon is considering is a 184-acre undeveloped property right here on Grand Island.

Located at 2780 Long Road just south of the new Holiday Inn Express, this site could accommodate a much larger facility than the one in Tonawanda. Grand Island Officials have reportedly “been working for some time on the potential deal,” but details of the project are still unclear for now. One source noted that a new sewer line was installed during the construction of the Holiday Inn Express, which could also serve an Amazon facility on the adjacent parcel of land.

Amazon recently announced that it will begin offering its Prime customers free one-day shipping instead of its current two-day standard, which means that the company will need to significantly expand its distribution infrastructure. With this in mind, it could make sense for Amazon to bring a new facility to Western New York in the not-too-distant future.

Stay tuned – this probably won’t be the last we hear about Amazon’s plans for the Buffalo Niagara Region.

Maid of the Mist to Adopt New Electric Vessels This Year

Maid of the MistThe Maid of the Mist boat tour has been ferrying tourists into the heart of Niagara Falls since 1846, first in steam-powered vessels and then later in the diesel-powered boats we know today. Now, the operators of the famous boat tour are preparing to modernize their fleet yet again with two all-electric passenger vessels that will be the first of their kind in the nation.

The catamaran-style electric boats were designed with the help of European technology company ABB, and they’re expected to begin shuttling passengers up and down the Niagara River in September of this year.

Each vessel will be powered by two independent battery systems that can be charged between trips in just seven minutes. The boats’ batteries will also be charged using hydroelectric power from the falls, making them true zero-emission vessels. Christopher M. Glynn, president of Maid of the Mist Corp said that the company is “thrilled to be the US’s first vessel owner to add all-electric ferries to our fleet,” in a recent press release.

In addition to reducing the Maid of the Mist’s environmental impact, the new electric vessels are expected to offer passengers a more pleasant ride as well. Without the noise and exhaust of diesel engines to distract them, tourists will finally be able to immerse themselves in the roar of Niagara Falls during their journeys.

Even for those of us who live just a few miles from the falls, these new electric vessels could give us an exciting opportunity to experience our favorite natural wonder in a whole new way.