The historic village of Lewiston, located about seven miles north of Niagara Falls, has a lot to offer year-round, including upscale shopping, great restaurants and fine accommodations. However, during August, the streets of the village come alive with art music and culture, with two summertime festivals that make a visit well worth the trip from Rochester.
According to Lewiston’s Mayor, Richard Soluri “We have a good setting for any type of festival.” He cited the restaurants, shops, a pleasant and safe streetscape, upscale lodging at the new Barton Hill Hotel, along with several bed & breakfast inns, as well as the drive to Lewiston itself. “The drive to Lewiston from Rochester along Route 104 is beautiful and relaxing, taking you past cobblestone architecture and many farm markets.”
The hottest ticket in town this summer is the Lewiston Jazz Festival, which will be taking place August 22-24. However, you won’t actually need a ticket, because all performances are free.
According to Soluri, who is also chairman of this year’s Lewiston Jazz Festival, “Every weekend is fun here, it’s just a little more fun here during Jazz Festival Weekend” Soluri, a Jazz aficionado, was one of the founders of the Jazz festival.
“The New York State Power Authority came to us seven years ago and wanted to do a project in Lewiston that would provide an economic stimulus,” said Sandy Hays-Mies, president of the Lower Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce. Since the then head of the Power Authority and Mayor Soluri had an interest in Jazz, and Lewiston had hosted Jazz weekends previously, they decided on a Jazz festival.
The first year’s festival, a one-day affair, consisted of an afternoon concert by Rochester’s Gap Mangione. Today, the festival has grown into a three-day event, which attracts over 30,000 people from all over western New York and Southern Ontario. It features over 140 musicians in 137 performances in restaurants pubs and various other locations, both indoors and out, along Center Street.
Friday evening’s concert will feature Blue Martini Jazz with Jeanine Mackie and Pat Perez. Saturday’s headliner will be New York City’s Mark Murphy, voted five times “The Best Male Jazz Singer of the Year” by Downbeat Magazine. Sunday’s concert will feature an afternoon performance by the Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve at Lewiston Landing Park, overlooking the Niagara River.
It is a quality festival,” said Hays-Mies. “We have a backdrop for western New York’s finest musicians with a streetscape of brick walkways, little shops and fine restaurants, making it a fantastic venue for the event.”
In addition to great Jazz music, the Jazz Festival also features local cuisine from over 20 quality food vendors. Sample treats like beef on weck, Italian specialties and even oysters with Champaign sauce, along with wines from twelve Niagara County wineries. “It’s a great opportunity to taste all our foods and wines all in one day,” said Hays-Mies. Rounding out the festival will be a jewelry show and a classic car show featuring British and European collector cars.
If you prefer fine art to music, come to Lewiston on August 9-10 and check out the 42nd annual Lewiston Art Festival. Close to 200 artists from the United States and Canada will have their art displayed. You’ll find paintings, photography, jewelry, fiber art and much more lining Center Street.
The annual high school chalkwalk competition, where students from area high schools draw murals on the sidewalk, takes place on Saturday August 9. This year’s murals will depict Niagara County’s Bicentennial, which is being celebrated this year.
Can’t visit Lewiston during the festivals? Don’t worry, there’s still many other events, including Blue Monday, a series of free Blues concerts presented by the Lewiston Council on the Arts, held each Monday until August 25 from 7-9pm in Hennepin Park.
Let’s not forget about Lewiston’s Artpark State Park, well-known as a venue for visual and performing arts. The summer season, which runs from late June to late August, features a variety of events, including Beauty & the Beast, which will be on the mainstage August 14-24.
Artpark’s weekly events include the Tuesday in the Park concert series, through August 2nd, which features family-friendly art activities and special musical performances. Wednesdays in the Gorge, another concert series, takes place through August 27. Both of these concert series are free to the public.
If you go
Lewiston Jazz Festival ( www.lewistonjazz.com) August 22-24
Lewiston Art Festival (716-754-0166 ; www.artcouncil.org ) August 9-10
Artpark State Park (716-754-4375, ; www.artpark.net)
Lower Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce. (716-754-9500; www.northofthefalls.com )
From Rochester take Route 104 west until you get to the village of Lewiston; about a one hour 15 minute drive.
Niagara Wine Trail
The Niagara Wine Trail, which runs through Niagara and Orleans Counties, has a dozen wineries on the trail. The soil and micro-climate of this area, located along the Niagara Escarpment, is ideal for growing wine producing grapes. You can sample world-class Pinot Noir, icewine, fruit wines, sparkling wines, and much more. Most wineries are open daily, year-round. Each month the trail hosts a themed weekend. Upcoming events include Artful Weekend August 16-17, Harvest Fest Sept. 20-21 and Hallowine Oct. 25-26. For more information visit www.niagarawinetrail.org