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Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v14n23 (06/11/2015) » Street Festival Feature

Allen West Festival celebrates 17 years of bohemian fun

Go West!
Allen West Festival celebrates 17 years of bohemian fun

Now in its 58th year, the Allentown Art Festival is a staple of the Queen City’s summer scene. During the second weekend of June, people from across the area flock to the blocked off sections on Allen Street, Delaware Avenue, and Franklin Street to check out and purchase works of art in all different mediums. Something first time festival patrons may not realize when walking west on Allen is that by crossing Elmwood Avenue they have entered into the Allen West Festival.

While the Allentown Art Festival is great business for artists and art patrons, it was not as enjoyable for those who lived in the Allentown area. “Allen Street, west of Elmwood was a big drunk fest,” said Gretchan Grobe, Chairperson of the Allen West Festival. “[The Allentown Association] was asked to see if we could do something because the neighbors were objecting to the fact that things were getting unruly on that end of Allen Street on the nights of the art festival. The Allentown Association decided to organize our own festival. The Allentown Art Festival did not mind because we weren’t going to be in their footprint and they wanted us to have two definitive festivals, so our footprint starts at Elmwood and goes west.”

Though you can seemingly walk across Elmwood Ave. and not know you’re entering a new festival, after walking further into the Allen West Festival you can certainly see, hear, and feel a difference. Buskers are playing music on the street corners, businesses are allowed to set up shop outside of their store fronts, people are huddled around street performers, all the art is made locally, and often more affordable than the art included in the Allentown Art Festival. “It’s local, we really try to highlight local artisans. We work with our businesses and allow them to be part of the festival. We like to think of ourselves as a hipper, more bohemian, friendly, more affordable festival,” said Grobe. “It’s more then just an arts festival, there are the chess players, sometimes there’s break dancers, sometimes the Nickel City Opera will sing, and again businesses are a big part of it...It’s more of a community festival.”

What started out with 50 vendors in 1998, this year the Allen West Festival will be expanding down Mariner and College Streets to hold a record 181 vendors. Even businesses that do not have items to sell have embraced the West Festival by throwing celebrations of their own. Nietzsche’s on Allen Street will feature 12 hours of live music going from 2pm Saturday until 2am Sunday, and again on Sunday afternoon at 2pm until 8pm for only $2 admission.

Duke’s Bohemian Grove Bar (DBGB) also on Allen, is having live music featuring Dave Schulz’s CO Jones, as well as DJs spinning all night both Saturday and Sunday. To celebrate the ending of both art festivals, on Sunday DBGB’s is having a complementary Pig Roast starting at 7pm. “It should be a rockin’ party both days,” said James Alfieri, Entertainment Director at DBGB. “The festival is one of the only times of year where people from all over the area are exposed to Allentown. They come in to the area to enjoy the best of Buffalo. They get to enjoy local artists, local music, and all kinds of local food delicacies, and they also get exposed to a great section of town—Allentown, especially west Allentown—which is Buffalo’s premier area for live music and entertainment.”

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