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Colden Festival and Belle Starr Music Festival celebrate Western New York art, music and craft scene, Sept. 7-8

I KNOW WHAT I LIKE — Art-lovers peruse the prints and paintings by local artists at the Colden Festival, held in Colden on Sept. 7-8. Photo by Joshua Gordon.


COLDEN — People hungry for the best of Western New York’s art scene had a full plate at the Colden Festival this past weekend.

The annual Colden Festival, held on Sept. 7-8, featured a juried art show with prizes for best in show and displays by artists and vendors from the area.

There was plenty to eat for people who were just plain hungry. Aside from the popcorn, Italian sausage and burgers, festival-goers could enjoy chicken barbecue provided by Wendel’s Poultry of East Concord.

Emerling Chevrolet showed off the best in its lot, and businesses around town opened their doors to the public, including the Colden Mill, which had closed for business nearly a decade ago.

“It was an excellent turnout,” said festival music coordinator Jim Howe.

DELICATE WORK — Monica Karsay, owner of Spotted Horse Designs in West Falls, assembles some of her hand-made jewelry. Hand-painted scarves hang behind her work table.


Though organizers were hesitant to make a guess at how many visitors stopped by over the weekend, Howe pegged the number at 800 - 1,000 guests. Howe also said the number of “vendors and painters doubled in size” since last year.

The festival also dovetailed with the Colden Fire Company’s annual breakfast and car show and the Belle Star Music Festival, both held on Sept. 7.

Afternoon rains washed out some of the vendors and visitors on Saturday afternoon, although that didn’t stop those who were determined to have a good time.

“Die-hard people kept coming with umbrellas,” saile Starr hosted acts like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and the Allman Brothers Band.

This year, the rebuilt Belle Starr played host to some old friends. The music festival “wasn’t meant to be a Belle Star reunion,” said Howe, “but that’s what it turned out to be.” Posse, who played Saturday night, “was the very first [band] to play the Belle Star,” said Howe, along with the Billy Bright Band, “the original Belle Star band.

SPINNING A YARN — Sandy Long, of Long Meadow Farm in Freedom, spins a blend of wool, angora and mulberry silk into yarn at her vendor stall, Sunday. Handmade soaps, lotions and buttons were also on sale at Long’s stall.


“It was great, the hugs and the handshakes. These guys haven’t seen each other for 20 years.”

The concert was a success, according to organizers and show-goers alike. Nevertheless, the Belle Starr nearly fell victim to a repeat performance of the 1980 fire that put an end to the legendary hangout.

Around midnight Saturday, “the lights dimmed and the coolers went down,” said Howe. It was later discovered that an electrical short caused a fuse to overheat. The issue was caught and addressed before any real damage could be done, and the show finished without any further problems.

Sunny weather brought the crowds back on Sunday. Offerings included live harp and fiddle music and performances by 16-year-old “juggler-by-trade” and Circus Smirkus performer Sawyer Oubre of East Aurora.

Oubre toured the festival on stilts and later showed off his skills with the diabolo – a juggling prop similar to a Chinese yo-yo.

[photo4]

Vendors and artists who had been washed out by the rains on Saturday returned to their tents, ready for the crowds.

Vivian Jagoda, a vendor at the festival and owner of Vivan Sew Unique, a custom clothing shop based in Colden, said the rains were only a minor setback.

“I had to take some of [my clothes] home and toss them in the dryer,” she said. But the next day, Jagoda was back in business. “It’s a great crowd,” she said.

The Colden Festival, run by a committee of volunteers, is the current iteration of a festival started in 1968. “It used to be the biggest art festival in Western New York,” said Culver. Though festival’s roots reach back more than 35 years, it has only recently been resurrected by members of the Colden community. “We’re [currently] in the re-birthing process,” Culver added.

Despite a little rain and a little electrical trouble, the Colden Festival saw its best turnout in years. Howe said the number of “vendors and painters doubled in size” from last year. Next year, it should be even bigger. “We want to bring it back to the way it was,” said Howe. “Bring it back to our roots.”

“Die-hard people kept coming with umbrellas,” said Vendor Chairman Ron Ziemba. “I think next year, we’ll have to open a tent to sell [umbrellas].”

Nor did rain put a damper on the Belle Star Music Festival held Saturday night. Singer-songwriter Willie Nile headlined a bill that included Grace Stumberg, fresh off a tour with Joan Baez, the Springville All Star Marching Band, Hintz of Thunder, JT and Jon Law, Steve Fleck and a pair of bands from the Starr’s glory days in the 1970s.

The Belle Starr, which shares its name with a 19th century Oklahoma gunslinger, was, according to Festival Chairman Greg Culver, a notorious roadhouse in Colden from its opening in the late ‘60s until a fire claimed the building in 1980. “It had a reputation for being a rough-and-tumble place,” said Culver.

In its heyday, the Belle Starr hosted the likes of Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and the Allman Brothers Band.

This year, the rebuilt Belle Starr played host to some old friends. The music festival “wasn’t meant to be a Belle Star reunion,” said Howe, “but that’s what it turned out to be.” Posse, who played Saturday night, “was the very first [band] to play the Belle Star,” said Howe, along with the Billy Bright Band, “the original Belle Star band.

“It was great, the hugs and the handshakes. These guys haven’t seen each other for 20 years.”

The concert was a success, according to organizers and show-goers alike. Nevertheless, the Belle Starr nearly fell victim to a repeat performance of the 1980 fire that put an end to the legendary hangout.

Around midnight Saturday, “the lights dimmed and the coolers went down,” said Howe. It was later discovered that an electrical short caused a fuse to overheat. The issue was caught and addressed before any real damage could be done, and the show finished without any further problems.

Sunny weather brought the crowds back on Sunday. Offerings included live harp and fiddle music and performances by 16-year-old “juggler-by-trade” and Circus Smirkus performer Sawyer Oubre of East Aurora.

Oubre toured the festival on stilts and later showed off his skills with the diabolo – a juggling prop similar to a Chinese yo-yo.

Vendors and artists who had been washed out by the rains on Saturday returned to their tents, ready for the crowds.

Vivian Jagoda, a vendor at the festival and owner of Vivian Sew Unique, a custom clothing shop based in Colden, said the rains were only a minor setback.

“I had to take some of [my clothes] home and toss them in the dryer,” she said. But the next day, Jagoda was back in business. “It’s a great crowd,” she said.

The Colden Festival, run by a committee of volunteers, is the current iteration of a festival started in 1968. “It used to be the biggest art festival in Western New York,” said Culver. Though festival’s roots reach back more than 35 years, it has only recently been resurrected by members of the Colden community. “We’re [currently] in the re-birthing process,” Culver added.

Despite a little rain and a little electrical trouble, the Colden Festival saw its best turnout in years. Howe said the number of vendors and painters doubled in size. Next year, it should be even bigger. “We want to bring it back to the way it was,” said Howe. “Bring it back to our roots.”


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