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Maritime Festival Speaks Boatloads About Buffalo

General consensus is that Buffalo’s inaugural Maritime Heritage Festival was a success. Despite getting off to a rainy start Saturday morning, the event managed to steer clear of the foul weather for the rest of the weekend. I must say that I am impressed that festival organizers decided to move forward with a two-day festival right out of the gate, because I know how daunting that can be. But the organizers were faced with some heavy lifts, due to the opening of the Colonel Ward Pumping Station to the public. Volunteers also set up some heavy duty nautical equipment, including a working 1925 Sterling Coast Guard Engine, which was fired up every half hour or so. The engine was built over on Niagara Street, where Resurgence Brewery is currently located. Seeing that so much went into the planning and the set up, it only made sense to make a full weekend out of it.

Event co-organizer Deborah Lynn Williams was the perfect tour guide for a spell on Saturday morning, when I arrived with my dog to walk the LaSalle Park grounds. By that time, the skies were clear and the foot traffic was picking up. Williams told me that one of the herculean lifts, which made the festival possible, was diverting the lake water to an ancillary pumping station for the weekend – a feat that I didn’t even know was possible.

Inside the pumping station. These six, much smaller pumps do what all five of the massive, 60 foot tall steam pumps used to do. The three blue pumps in the foreground are the original electric pumps, and then the three vertical pumps behind them were added more recently in two phases. Photo by Williams

modern blue pumps.  There are actually six pumps there where you noted three.  

With the water diverted, the interior of the massive pumping station was opened to the public. Something of this nature is highly unusual at this scale. In fact, I’m not aware that this has ever happened before. There are occasionally tours through the facility, but open for a two-day festival?

The decommissioned pumps are magnificent, as is the pumping station’s scale and structure. It made for the perfect setting for myriad vendors.

The good news is that everything went off without a hitch, meaning that we can expect that this was the first of many festivals to come in the future? This facility is such an important part of the city’s history. It’s such a treat to be able to walk around examining all of the industrial components – both the working pumps, and the decommissioned pumps.

While I unfortunately missed the metal pour by the Buffalo Maritime Center’s Foundry, Williams passed along a photo of the pour underway (lead image). The pour was just another fascinating component of the festival, which people loved to see. There was something for everyone to do, including the kids. Plus, The Barkyard was just down the road, so even my dog got a chance to romp around later that morning. 

What’s a maritime festival without getting your hands dirty? Kids painting the Hoyt Lake Olmsted Skiffs.  Boats were built by students from Maritime Charter School. Photo by Williams

Congratulations to festival organizers who did a smashing job of pulling everything together. Hopefully this event gets bigger and better each year, with more boats, more activities, more vendors, etc. This truly is a one-of-a-kind event that speaks boatloads about Buffalo.

Local pirate, artist, sculptor and designer of the festival’s logo Henry Schmidt, Deborah Lynn Williams, and Patrick Martin superintendent of the pumping station

Lead image: Zack Prichard and Mary Rose Fridey from Buffalo Maritime Center’s Foundry | Photo by Williams

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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