Who doesn’t love a good art festival? Tents as far as the eye can see, each filled with artwork as unique as the people perusing. Delicious food and libations at your fingertips, music to put a hop in your step, unique neighborhoods to explore and people watching. (Oh, the people watching!)Art festivals in Western New York draw thousands from near and far, many of whom return year after year. Repeat visitors have often even honed a routine for working their way through each festival and enjoying what the local neighborhoods have to offer.
Jenny Augustine of Kenmore and Ken Crawford of Buffalo look forward to attending the Allentown Art Festival each June. With the Allentown Art Festival and the Allen West Festival happening simultaneously, visitors get exposed to twice the art all in one place.
“It’s like a treasure hunt,” said Augustine, who loves exploring both festivals for unique and eccentric artwork. “I love giving my friends unconventional gifts, so I always attend with someone specific in mind. There are so many things available that you’d never find in a traditional store. It’s always a challenge to see what I’ll find.”
While Jenny wanders in pursuit of the peculiar, Ken focuses on more traditional forms of artwork. “I love photos—landscapes and cityscapes—especially different views of Buffalo and Western New York.”
“We enjoy coming each year because it’s everything we love all in one place,” said Augustine. “We can relax and spend the day together and we both come away finding things that make us happy.”
Beyond the festival, Jenny and Ken also take the opportunity to explore Allentown.
“Once we’re finished walking around, we always stop somewhere to eat before heading home,” said Augustine. “Each year we try to pick a different place, especially restaurants we’ve never been to before. It’s fun to find something new to try.”
Matthew Morreale and his husband Jeffrey Knight live in the Elmwood Village—and love how close they are to the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts.
“We’re lucky because all we have to do is walk down to the end of our street,” said Morreale. “We love that so many people come down to the festival and get to see what the Elmwood Village has to offer.”
Matt and Jeff look forward to taking their dogs to the festival every year. “We take them on the same walk that we take every day,” said Morreale, “but it’s exciting because the festival completely transforms our daily routine.”
The two walk their dogs down to Starbucks to grab some coffee, and then work their way back through the festival.
“Traditionally it’s very hot that weekend, so depending on the weather, we love to stop in different places along the way back to cool off,” said Morreale. “Forty Thieves is very dog friendly so we usually grab a drink on their patio, and the dogs love to stop at Yotality for a cold treat.”
As Matt and Jeff amble through the festival checking out the local art, many festivalgoers make a point to check out their pups instead. “The dogs absolutely love all the attention they get on weekends like this,” said Morreale. “It’s truly an enjoyable time for all of us.”
Mary Smith and her husband Tom call Lewiston home, and look forward to all of the festivities that bring people to their town each summer, including the Lewiston Art Festival.
“It’s not a large art festival like Allentown,” said Smith, “but it has a variety of artists from across the country as well as Niagara University student art. The festival is easy to navigate and definitely family friendly, too.”
Every year Mary and Tom start at 5th Street and walk down one side and up the other. “I love looking at new and different artisans and the various art mediums they use,” said Smith.
The couple lives in town, so they frequently stop in many of the local businesses throughout the year, but during the festival they “always stop at the stand outside Casa Antiqua for a rice ball and a stuffed hot pepper—they’re delicious!” said Smith. “Festivals like this really help to support our local small businesses.”
Each year the festival also hosts a themed chalk walk where local high school teams create chalk murals in the street that represent the theme.
“So many talented young artists participate,” said Smith. “We love watching them work and seeing the finished product; it’s always interesting to see how they each interpret the theme.”
On the hunt
The best thing about local art festivals is that they truly have something for everyone.
“It’s all about eccentricity for me,” said Augustine. “I typically focus on vendors at the Allentown Art Festival that use found objects to make their creations. I love seeing the creativity that goes into turning everyday objects into art.”
“I love looking for vendors that focus on eco-sustainability,” said Crawford. “Whether its food or cleaning products or art, it’s interesting to see vendors promoting that in creative ways.”
“Jeff and I love Buffalo-themed artwork,” said Morreale. “We are definitely drawn to the vendors that boast anything Buffalo. There’s one vendor in particular at the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts that sells different artistic prints of notable Buffalo landmarks—City Hall, the Central Terminal. Jeff and I have a wall in our house where we hang the prints, and we like to add to it each year.”
“I always look for Artisans Alley, which showcases Niagara University Art students who are selling their art,” said Mary Smith. “Over the years I have bought pottery, jewelry, metal art and photography. They are talented, and their pieces are unique—I love to support the students as they pursue their passion.”
Mark your cal
August plays host to two of the region’s best outdoor art festivals (with Allentown’s kicking off the summer each June):
August 10 & 11
Lewiston Art Festival
August 24 & 25
Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts
Story topics: Community