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Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts

Buffalo has always had a vibrant arts community and a can do spirit. It’s time to celebrate it at the 18th annual Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts on Saturday, August 26th from 10:00 until 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, August 27th from 10:00 until 5:00 p.m. What makes this festival so special is that it is both inclusive and local, forward thinking and down home simple, for viewing or buying art and creating your own. The do it yourself art component is available in the Kidsfest area located in the Elmwood Lexington Coop’s parking lot and it’s open to kids of all ages. There is also the chance to hear music and sing along, watch dancers and sway or even join the crew of volunteers who put on the festival, wearing free t-shirts and experiencing the joy of participation.

There is something for everyone. Festival-goers are encouraged to walk, bike, ride the bus or carpool to get to there and once there, you can find food, fun, and friends. I like to start at one end, either West Ferry or St. James Street and walk along Elmwood taking it all in, pausing for entertainment or shopping. Inevitably, I run into people and have conversations so give yourself plenty of time for both scheduled events (see the performance schedule on the website) and serendipitous ones. If you need a place to take a break, stop by the Kidsfest where there are five activity tents and a performance tent.  

In that area, there is a water and fruit station so there is no need to be hungry or thirsty, especially important if you are there with children. There is sun protection under the tents as well.  Each activity tent has something for the children to do as well as a place for parents to sit and watch. For example, in the “Tot Tent”, parents can sit on haybales and watch their children engage with a piece of string. Volunteers from Aurora Waldorf School will show children how to wrap the string around their hands to make a cat’s cradle, a witches broom and many other recognizable forms.

At the “Silly Cool” tent, children can have their faces painted and decorate hoola hoops. Using coated wire that’s colorful and twisty, children can join Nardin Montessori Academy volunteers to create crowns, bracelets, even eyeglasses. Park School volunteers have wooden beads to decorate then watch run through a contraption in the “Woodland Tent”. There will be wooden sculptures on the side that children can brush with mineral oil to see them glisten.

The Circle of Joy parade tent is where children can paint the banner for the parade that will take place on Sunday at 4:00 p.m.. They can also make joyflakes with tissue and paper circles that the children can  carry in the parade. The parade starts at the M&T bank at Elmwood and Breckenridge. All are welcome to participate and to march or dance down the street celebrating all that’s good and creative in Buffalo.

As a part of the theme of supporting Buffalo and the planet, there is recycling, local business participation, and mindfulness of materials used. It’s a great event imbued with the spirit of generosity and joy. You can see it in the poster which always features a local artist. This year, the drawing is by Elvi Jo Dougherty.  Not to leave anything out, there is also information about local nonprofits available in the Cultural Row.

Volunteers are still needed so call 716-830-2484 or email if you want to join the fun.  According to Kidsfest coordinator Tanya Zabinski, “Instead of fighting against what we don’t want, we’re aiming towards what we do want, and working to create that.”

Written by Judith Frizlen

Judith Frizlen

Judith Frizlen is the founder of the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center and author of Words for Parents, Words for Teachers and Caregivers and Unpacking Guilt, a Mother's Journey to Freedom. Books and blogposts are on her website at She is a fan of early childhood, urban architecture and the revitalization of Buffalo.

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