Italian festival headed to Buffalo's Outer Harbor

Posted at 4:47 PM, Feb 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 19:19:05-05

Buffalo's annual summertime salute to Italian heritage will have a new home this year, on Buffalo's Outer Harbor.

The festival, which draws tens of thousands of people to Hertel Avenue - the Queen City's version of Little Italy - celebrated its 29th year in North Buffalo last year. 

The Italian Heritage Festival originally started on Connecticut Street before moving to Hertel where it has grown in popularity over the years.

Dates for the festival will remain the same during the middle of July, but the new location will offer opportunities for more events and larger concerts.  

In addition, the Outer Harbor location provides more parking spaces.  Residents and businesses in the Hertel Avenue neighborhood complained parking issues in that area are very difficult during the festival, to the point where some businesses have to close for the week.

Crowd control is another concern as people where able to enter the Hertel Avenue festival area from several side streets. In 2015, Buffalo Police ended the festival early because of fights.  Moving to the waterfront will allow police to better secure the festival, said Lt. Jeff Rinaldo from Buffalo Police.

"It allows us you to establish response areas.  It allows you to have better staging for paramedics, fire, and things like that," added Rinaldo.

Organizers are also looking at the possibility of charging $5 admission for teenagers and adults to keep troublemakers away.  Children under 12 and seniors over 65 will be free.  Veterans will qualify for a discounted admission price.

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation Chairman Bob Gioia said he was excited about the change because it will help showcase the Buffalo waterfront for family-friendly activities like large-scale festivals.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his reports.