Can you believe that it’s been 20 years since the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts (EAFA) got off the ground? I remember sitting around a table with about a dozen other people, talking about all of our hopes and dreams for the event, never realizing that it would be as popular as it has become. I also remember taking a drive down to the Manayunk Arts Festival in Philadelphia with co-founder Joe DiPasquale, to get some takeaways from that highly regarded event. In the end, our best takeaway, I believe, was to not let the festival get commercialized. In the middle of the Manayunk Arts Festival, there was a live radio broadcast truck that was making tons of noise, and businesses were handing out all sorts of bizarre chintzy merchandise. That was exactly what we didn’t want to see happen at the Elmwood Festival.
A few of the things that make EAFA so different include the family friendly elements such as the the kids’ craft tent called Kidsfest (there’s also a kids’ music and dance tent). It was also decided from the start that EAFA would always have a grassroots feeling about it, with a concentration on environmental aspects, healthy food options… and it was also important to have a more intimate neighborhoody feel about it. I believe that all of that criteria has remained in place over the last two decades, and this festival has become a darling of the Buffalo festival scene for those reasons.
If I might have one suggestion for you, it’s that you experience the children’s parade at the end of the festival. If you have never witnessed this parade, you don’t know what you are missing. At the close of the festival, all of the children who have been busy contributing to a themed “float” in the Kidsfest Tent, come together to parade down the street, led by musicians and followed by parents – there’s a dance party at the end. It’s a scene that never ceases to get me choked up – it’s a powerful display of sheer happiness, creativity, and family bonding. It also singlehandedly sums up the nature of the festival, and all that it represents – I always think back to that initial meeting at Spot Coffee, sitting around the table envisioning all of the ways that we could make the festival wholesome and different. 20 years later, I believe that the group accomplished what it set out to do.
The 20th Annual Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts
Up to date info and schedules here – www.elmwoodartfest.org
Saturday August 24 10am-6pm | After Hours Concert 6:15-8:30pm
Sunday August 25 10am-5pm
Shop – With more than 170 artists and craftspeople
See – Over 60 performances on four stages
Dance – Move your feet in the family Dance Tent
Create – KidsFest features 5 hands-on activity tents. Come join the Caravan of Kindness Parade on Sunday!
Support – Come meet and support over 50 Cultural and Environmental Groups and our Elmwood Businesses
Eat – When you are hungry, the Festival Café will have world class food waiting, with many healthful options