News Column

Music will get folks dancing downtown this summer

June 16, 2014

By Michele DeLuca, Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, N.Y.

June 16--Music lovers: sooner or later, they're going to get you!

At least that's the agenda for planners of a wide ranging schedule of local and national music acts and events set for Old Falls Street this summer.

Sure, they want to lure all those tourists out of the state park, but they also want those musical notes to be irresistible to all those who live throughout the region.

The biggest draw for many live music fans, they say, is that all the concerts and festivals are free. The summer concert schedule includes the three-day Music & Art Festival, which organizer Rick Crogan said this week will proceed as planned starting next Thursday, despite legal problems he is facing.

In addition, the Niagara Falls Blues Festival planners said their September festival has expanded to four days. In between those noted events, Old Falls Street is offering TGI Friday concerts on the corner of Third Street to fill in the quiet spaces.

"We're definitely trying to bring more people into the city," said Sue Swiatkowski, director of marketing for the Conference and Event Center and Old Falls Street, who oversees activities on the street and helps to run the free Friday concert series."We want to bring back people who haven't been downtown in a while," she said.

Swiatkowski -- whose company Global Spectrum, recently won the contract to manage events at Canalside on the Buffalo waterfront -- said a host of free activities, from book signings, movie nights, lectures, Kids Club and Zumba fitness sessions have been planned throughout the summer on Old Falls Street. But, it's the Friday concerts that are expected to draw the largest crowds.

The Friday concerts have a new sponsor in TGI Friday's Restaurant and the location of the stage for those concerts has been moved to Third Street, so that the local bands are in full view of patrons of the restaurant, she said.

Swiatkowski said additional Saturday concerts planned on Old Falls Street will include car "cruises," hosted by the Corvette Club of Chicago and the Corvette Club of Buffalo.

The first is the "The Old Falls Street Cruise In," and it will feature Buffalo entertainer Lance Diamond on July 19. A second car cruise is set for Aug. 16 features The Boys of Summer band. Both events are open to all kinds of cars, as long as the owners pre-register, she said.

The two music festivals will fortify the street's events, and are expected to draw thousands, including the Music & Art Festival, which starts Friday; and the Niagara Falls Blues Festival, which has been expanded to a fourth day and runs Sept. 11 through 14.

The Music & Art Festival appeared to be in danger of cancellation last week when its founder, Crogan, was indicted after a whistleblower claimed he was mismanaging funds. Crogan, however, quickly went back to work planning the event, which is privately owned by his company Balabans LLC.

"We've got some of the best talent in the area," Crogan said of the festival, which will also include local artists selling their wares at vendor tents. A wide assortment of bands are playing at the event for the first time this year, including A List, Billy Hickey, About Time, Clyde and The Chicago Blues Connection and Jayson Moynihan.

Despite the charges against him, Crogan said, the 4th annual event, which he helped to found as president of the Main Street Business Association, and which attracted about 18,000 people last year, is coming back strong this year, with a new emphasis on family friendliness. "We're getting a lot of support," he added.

While Crogan had been advised not to speak about the charges, his Buffalo attorney, Mike Deal said the continuation of the festival shows that "what everyone expected to happen when they got involved with the festival -- however, they may have gotten involved -- is going to happen."

Deal also said he expects the investigation to show no wrongdoing or wrongful intent on Crogan's part.

Meantime, planners of the Niagara Falls Blues Festival are busily working to continue the strength of their seven-year-old festival.

Sherry Kushner who runs the all-volunteer event with Toby Rotella, former owner of the Imperial Garage Blues Club, said that the event was expanded to a fourth day this year. That means live music will be scheduled with the traditional Car Cruise on Thursday night along with a variety of food trucks. The next three days will be business as usual for the increasingly popular blues festival, which they believe is one of the premier blues festivals on the East Coast, and certainly one of the few that is free.

"We love it," said Kushner, who added that she and Rotella come up to Niagara Falls from Florida where they now make their home, to lead the event. It's success has amazed even the two of them.

"I'm always standing on the stage looking out there and going 'oh, my God, look at all these people.'"

Overall, those involved in bringing music to downtown Niagara Falls believe they are working to put the city back on the map as a premier tourist location beyond the state park and the cascading water.

Says Old Falls Street's marketeer, Swiatkowski: "We're just trying to keep people in Niagara Falls a little longer, so they will enjoy themselves, spend a little more money and spark our economy."

IF YOU GO --For information on the Niagara Falls Music & Art Festival, which begins Friday, visit --For information on the Niagara Falls Blues Festival, set for Sept. 11-14, visit --For details on Old Falls Street events visit --TGI Friday Concerts on Old Falls Street --June 27 -- Kurt & The Loders --July 4 -- Independence Day Party with 2 Bands -- Lakeside and Murphy's Law --July 11 -- Whiskey Reverb --July 18 -- Rumourz -- Tribute to Fleetwood Mac --July 25 -- Souled Out --Aug. 1 -- TBA --Aug. 8 -- Frank Grizanti Band --Aug. 15 -- Jamie Holka & Bruce Wojick --Aug. 22 -- Randall and the Late Night Scandals --Aug. 29 -- KISS This -- Kiss Tribute Band --Sept. 5 -- Aircraft with Well Worn Boot and Mr. Boneless --Sept. 19 -- West of the Mark


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Source: Niagara Gazette (NY)

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