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.

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.

New Children’s Museum to Open This Month in Buffalo

Children's MuseumLooking for some entertaining, educational activities to enjoy with your children or grandkids this summer? Explore & More – the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum is expected to welcome visitors to its new 43,000-square-foot home at Canalside in downtown Buffalo later this month.

The new museum—which was made possible thanks to $6 million in matching grant funds from the foundation of the late Ralph Wilson—will include seven educational play zones with hands-on exhibits and activities that cover a wide variety of topics such as gardening, the arts, engineering and history. Many of the exhibits are focused on issues and ideas that are important to the residents of Western New York, such as a moving water exhibit that explores how waterways have “fueled our city’s prosperity and innovation.”

Explore & More will also feature several interactive spaces including a cooking galley, art studio and a “tinkering tank” where children can learn how to fix, take apart and troubleshoot everyday objects in a safe, supervised environment. Explore and More can accommodate up to 800 children at once, and museum officials hope to attract roughly a quarter-million visitors each year.

Located on the Buffalo waterfront, the four-story museum was constructed on the terminus of the original Erie Canal.

One-time admission to the museum will cost $11, and families can purchase an annual membership for $125 that also grants access to other children’s museums from around the country. You can read about the new exhibits and take a virtual tour of the museum on the Explore & More website.

Volunteers Have Planted 30,000 Trees Across Western New York

Planting a Tree In October of 2006, a sudden snow and ice storm swept across Western New York, leaving a trail of broken trees in its wake. Utility crews worked diligently to repair downed power lines and clear fallen limbs from roadways, but by the end of the cleanup effort more than 57,000 trees had been lost to the storm.

Soon after the storm had passed, a former radio salesperson named Paul Maurer formed a volunteer organization called Re-Tree Western New York and embarked on a mission to plant 30,000 trees in 5 years. The volunteers at Re-Tree WNY also established agreements with local municipalities to match their donations in hopes of planting a total of 60,000 trees.

Re-Tree’s efforts were repeatedly delayed by a series of financial setbacks, but after 12 years Maurer and his team are finally planting the last of their 30,000 trees.

This week, the Buffalo News reported that Re-Tree volunteers would plant their 30,000th tree at Canalside in downtown Buffalo. It’s sure to be an emotional moment for Maurer and the rest of the leadership at Re-Tree WNY, who have spent more than a decade working toward this ambitious goal.

But Re-Tree’s work isn’t done yet, according to Maurer. Now, the volunteer organization will continue to work with communities across Western New York to help preserve the health of their trees and replace them when they’re damaged by disease or future weather events.

“I’m still going to do this, maybe even more so,” said Maurer in his interview with the Buffalo News. “…There always will be that replacement that has to be done.”

Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers at Re-Tree WNY, future generations of Western New Yorkers will be able to enjoy life in a lush community with thousands of healthy trees.

Tolls May Become a Thing of the Past on Grand Island

Grand Island BridgeIt’s been a little more than a year since the old toll booths on the Grand Island bridges were replaced with a new cashless tolling system. When the new system launched, many residents and local officials were optimistic that it would reduce traffic congestion on the bridges and save drivers valuable time during their morning and afternoon commutes. In practice, however, the cashless tolling system has been plagued with issues that caused some drivers to be wrongly charged hundreds of dollars in late fees.

Now, in an effort to resolve these problems once and for all, two state senators are sponsoring legislation that would remove tolls from the Grand Island bridges altogether.

New York State Senators Chris Jacobs and Rob Ortt argue that the tolls, which were originally instituted to help pay for the cost of the bridges, have outlived their usefulness and should therefore be eliminated.

“What we see is that those bridges generate about $20 million a year in revenue and clearly it’s not $20 million a year to upkeep those bridges. Most of that money is heading downstate to support other things,” said Senator Jacobs in a recent interview.

Although past attempts from Senator Jacobs to eliminate the tolls have failed to receive approval from his fellow lawmakers, he says he now has more support in the wake of the cashless tolling debacle. There is a currently a companion bill that calls for the removal of the tolls pending in the State Assembly as well.