By Terry Duffy
Summer has now become autumn in the River Region - with those scenic drives in the countryside, U-pick visits, fall plants and pre-Halloween pumpkin buying, farm hayrides and the like being the norm.
Yes, with enjoyable fall weather (hopefully no more of those horrid, 90-degree-plus days and constant A/C), now's a great time to get out and enjoy all the area has to offer.
Up in Youngstown - that friendly community fondly known by locals as the "little piece of paradise" on the lower Niagara - they're once again gearing up for a nice fall celebration. The fifth annual Youngstown Arts & Music Festival takes over the village's Falkner Park on Main Street from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6. The event is free, and all can stop by and enjoy.
The event is presented by the Village of Youngstown and some duly creative locals. Visitors can look forward to a day of autumnal fun and a mix of activities with appeal to all ages. Festival organizer Claudia Andres said this event will feature a mix of musical entertainment on two stages; plenty of activities for the kids; a homebrew competition and taste for the adults; a farmers market of Niagara's bounty, with informative demonstrations by Youngstown farming guru Tom Tower; fall/winter gardening tips by the Youngstown Garden Club; an all-ages arts competition with a focus on natural and reusable materials; and a variety of food favorites served up by area churches, community groups and businesses.
"It's the little festival that grew," Andres said. She credited the efforts of founding organizers Cheryl Butera and Marcia Jones, coupled with support by the Youngstown Business and Professional Association, as enabling this festival to capture the River Region's interest and grow in such a short time.
"Always having its focus on music and art, this year we're featuring more local groups. Old Fort Niagara is bringing kids activities and demonstrations as well as their own local group. The Youngstown Free Library is also very involved this year," Andres said.
She pointed to the homebrew competition, now in its second year, as yet another happening that continues to build interest.
"Brickyard Brewing Company (of Lewiston) is sponsoring our homebrew competition - they will brew a batch of their best beer," Andres said. "Black Button Distilling of Rochester is also involved. We're stressing craftsmanship here."
Andres said entries are being accepted for the homebrew competition up to Thursday, Oct. 4.
She welcomed area beer aficionados to join in. Categories this year include American IPAs, English porter and "other" entries. The fee is $5 to enter, with prizes of $75 each for top brew and Best of Show offered.
Judging will be done by Tom Winter and John Meteer from the BBC, and Becky Dyster of Niagara Traditions Homebrew.
Entries are being taken at the BBC and Niagara Traditions. For more information on the contest, contact Andres at [email protected]
or call 716-622-0373.
So what of those arts and music offerings? Plenty of that, Andres said.
The festival will feature what she called "Rising Artists," showcasing the musical talents of local high school and college students throughout the afternoon. The schedule includes Jillian Eliza, a young country singer/songwriter from Buffalo, from 11 a.m. to noon; Kira Zappy, a guitarist/vocalist and Wilson High School grad, from noon to 1 p.m.; Jackson Rotella, a singer/songwriter and Wilson High School senior, from 1-2 p.m.; and the students of Guitarwoodshed, led by Youngstown's Jason Beaudreau, from 4:15-4:45 p.m.
Nestled between the student acts will be local singer/musician Dave Stayner from 2-3 p.m., BLT from 3-4:15 p.m., and Mr. Max rounding it out from 4:45-6 p.m.
Also taking place that day will be an artisan contest with its focus on the theme, recycle/reuse/resource. Local artists are invited to participate for a $20 entry fee. Prizes of $100, $50 and $25 will be offered for the best creations.
"The artisan competition will look for pieces and works that utilize natural or reusable materials," Andres said. "Not restricted to craftwork, a painting (or other work), artists could use a natural surface or use the same subject matter."
Judging will be done by Youngstown sculptress Susan Geissler; Kate Koperski, director of the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University; and local artist the Rev. Dr. Rex Stewart of First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown. Entries will be accepted up until Oct. 6.
The event will feature an artisan market, open to artists and crafters from throughout the area. Spaces are still available at the park for $35 per exhibitor/vendor.
For more information, contact Andres at the email/number listed above.
Throughout the day, there will be a farmers market featuring fine Niagara County produce from Youngstown's Tower, plus several local farmers.
"Tom Tower will be there with his tractor and trailer, talking about the many different varieties of fruits and vegetables, and how to use each one," Andres said.
Also on site will be a variety of children's activities by Old Fort Niagara; crafts by the Youngstown Recreation Department and Lewiston-Porter Builder's Club from 1-3 p.m.; and story walks by the Youngstown Free Library taking place all day.
And food/beverage wise, festival organizers will have guests covered with a number of tasty offerings expected - from burgers and dogs, chowder, pizza and snacks, to drinks and desserts - by local church groups, the Masons, Youngstown Lions and area bars/restaurants.
"All you have to do is stop by," Andres said.