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'Taste of Buffalo' solidifies claim to be biggest such fete in U.S.

Poster Contest Grand Prize Winner, by Hayley Safe, West Seneca West High School.
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The 31st annual "Taste of Buffalo" extravaganza is gaining momentum as the July 12-13 festivities near. New this year will be a lawn fete-style beer tent and numerous first-time vendors, according to an announcement made Thursday.

The event, which organizers bill as the largest such food festival in the nation, will be held in downtown Buffalo on Delaware Avenue and in Niagara Square. The count of participating restaurants is up to 60, and they will offer more than 220 sample-size culinary items for $1 to $4. Serving hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 12, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

In recent years, the festival has drawn 450,000 people. It remains an event run by an all-volunteer board of directors and a small army of volunteers and an event coordinator. The vast majority of the income from the event goes to the participating restaurants, but, after expenses for such things as tents, electricity, permits, entertainment and trash collection, the Taste makes one or more contributions to local charitable organizations.

The new "Beer Tent on Niagara East," which will be set up in Niagara Square, will feature brews from Labatt's and Flying Bison along with live music from party bands from the area. They include West of the Mark, Ultraviolet, Hit n Run, Cock Robin, Heard of Buffalo, Dave Constantino Band and The Strangers. A stage of another kind also will be featured -- the Taste Culinary Stage, located under a tent in the New Era Cap parking lot. There, culinary artists will present cooking demonstrations and lessons, and competitions will be held in cannoli making, grill master cooking and a Lockhouse Vodka summer cocktail competition.

While vendors will close at 9 p.m. on Saturday, the beer tent will stay open until 11. Ten shade tents also will be scattered along the festival route. Festival guides that include restaurant/food vendor menu offerings will be available at any of the ticket booths. But, you don't have to wait until the event to find out. A searchable listing is available online, as is a listing of all the food vendors. In addition to them and the beer tent, a number of wineries are signed up to be on hand. Among them: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Glenora Wine Cellars, Knapp Winery & Glenora Wine Center, The Winery at Marjim Manor, Merritt Winery Estates, Niagara Landing Wine Cellars and Spring Lake Winery.

Parking reservations may be made online. There is no admission fee, although food and beverage sampling are on a buy-tickets-in-advance basis with at least four ticket booths.