UB Spectrum: Powder Keg Festival to be Held Downtown

By REBECCA BRATEK

Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, February 10, 2011

Source: buffalowinterfest.com

Downtown Buffalo will become a winter wonderland this weekend with the second annual Buffalo Powder Keg Festival, which begins on Friday and runs through Sunday.

After the huge success of the Pond Hockey Tournament, which began in 2008, urban activists Newell Nussbaumer and Jeff Empric had realized the city needed to embrace the cold and snowy months. In 2009, the Powder Keg Festival had become a reality. The inaugural event created a sensation that had residents begging for another year of winter fun.

"The growth in the popularity of the annual Labatt Blue Pond Hockey tournament, along with the Powder Keg Winter Fest, proves that Buffalo truly is an all-season city," said Mayor Byron W. Brown. "As with last year, we expect hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators for the pond hockey tournament and thousands more attending the winterfest activities, so expect to see a very lively and fun-filled Buffalo waterfront this coming weekend."

Nussbaumer and Empric are not experienced event planners, and this year they sought to find someone who could expand the event's potential. Drew Cerza, creator of the Buffalo Wing Festival, is familiar with planning large-scale events and took over the organization of this year's festival.

"We haven't had a winterfest [in Buffalo] for years," Cerza said. "We get a bad rep for this season. Why not celebrate what winter offers?"

The festival is expanding its reach this year, as it is taking over the waterfront, HSBC Plaza, and the area stretching from Coca-Cola Field along Seneca Street to Pearl Street Grill and Brewery.

"[The Powder Keg Festival] is one big event of winter fun," Cerza said. "It creates civic pride and allows people to get out of the house and enjoy winter."

The celebration kicks off Friday night at 5 p.m. with the Powder Keg "Ice Breaker" party featuring a trivia contest and live music by Eric Crittenden and Friends, who will be followed by Suckerpunch. A giant 200-by-66-foot pavilion, sponsored by Labatt, will keep guests warm during the night of entertainment.

Saturday includes events for all ages. Ice sculpture, blacksmith, and wood-carving demonstrations will highlight the Seneca Street strip. A sculpture park will allow children to get creative with food coloring, buckets, and snow.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, the American Lung Association is hosting "Climb for Air," a footrace to the top of HSBC Center. For their effort, participants will collect pledges to benefit the association.

At noon on Saturday, Aqueous, a band partially comprised of UB students, will be performing. They're set to play until 3 p.m.

Additionally, "Buffalo's Winter Beach Party" kicks off in the afternoon and extends into the evening, bringing summer to the snowy streets of downtown. The Boys of Summer, a local act known for warming up the summer months, will perform and heat up the chilly night.

Sunday will feature a Sabres pre-game party, reminiscent of the favorite "Party in the Plaza" usually thrown during playoff runs. Fans will be able to watch the Sabres battle the New York Islanders on the big screen, while musical acts take to the stage in the heated pavilion.

Tubing off of the Seneca Street Skyway exit will return this year by popular demand. Rotary Rink will also be open throughout the weekend, offering free skating to festival attendees. Horse-drawn sleigh rides taking guests for a picturesque trip down Pearl Street will be offered for $5. Historic hikes offered by the Buffalo Hiking Group will take guests through many of the Queen City's landmarks.

The winterfest wouldn't be complete without a celebration of local culture. Food vendors will be catering the weekend with local favorite foods. Pearl Street Grill and Brewery will offer pancake breakfasts Saturday and Sunday, while Chef's Restaurant will be hosting pasta dinners. Sunday also brings the Mark Twain Chili cook-off, inspired by the Buffalo-based film, Bruce Almighty.

Guests 21 and up will also be able to enjoy draft beer tastings on Sunday afternoon with the purchase of a $25 pre-sale ticket or $30 at the door.

The Powder Keg Festival is also joining forces this year with the Labatt Pond Hockey Tournament, which takes place at Erie Basin Marina, and the Buffalo Auto Show, held at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

Russell's Steaks, Chops, and More restaurant is also sponsoring this year's event. Owner Russ Salvatore is serving as honorary chairman of the festival. Partial proceeds from the event will benefit the Buffalo Police Athletic League and Alzheimer's of Western New York.

For more information on the Powder Keg Festival and a complete listing of the weekend's events, visit http://buffalowinterfest.com.