Old man winter has proven to be very angry this year. The weather is frigid, the snow keeps falling, and the wind keeps blowing. In spite of this, many people continue to laugh at winter for one reason: this is Buffalo.
The tradition of scoffing at the cold was more alive than ever at the Powder Keg Festival this past weekend. The gusts of wind were freezing, but the spirit of the Queen City would not be knocked over.
Situated near Brawler's Deli in Downtown Buffalo, excitement filled the air as parents and their children ambled from one event to the next. One of the biggest attractions for kids was the Skyway Seneca Street Ramp Tubing Hill. Organizers partitioned off an entire off-ramp from the Buffalo Skyway and let kids sled down it all weekend.
Right next to the sledding hill was a small petting zoo that allowed children to feed various animals, including sheep, goats, a miniature horse, and a Saharan camel – an uncommon sight in Buffalo.
The centerpiece was the Family Pavilion, a heated tent filled to capacity with a multitude of carnival games and entertainment for children. It hosted the snowman-building contest, where teams competed in a multitude of categories ranging from Most Snowmen to Most Creative. It soon became apparent, however, that one group was a ringer for the category of Tallest Snowman.
Near the back corner of the snowman-building zone stood a towering behemoth of a snowman, around eight feet tall. Any Bill Murray fan would have recognized it instantly: it was a snow-Stay Puft Marshmallow man, not only dressed for the occasion but surrounded by little Ghostbusters snowmen with red and yellow tape streams flowing from their mock proton packs.
"We won for tallest snowman last year," said Nick Kalczynski, one of the builders and a UB alumnus. "And it looks like we are going to win again this year."
Not all the fun was directed at family events. The Labatt Music and Beer Garden housed a stage that served as a venue for a multitude of local bands. One of those bands was a local group named Aqueous, a progressive jam band with roots in UB and Buffalo. Their live show has been self-described as "a brand-new experience, not one to be missed."
"[The Powder Keg Festival] definitely improved from last year," said Matt Filion, a senior mechanical engineering major.
But not all were there to have fun. Volunteers staffed the entire event, and proceeds went to the Buffalo Police Athletic League and the Alzheimer's Association.
"My favorite part was painting kids' faces," said Mason Curtacci, a junior biology and environmental studies major, who was volunteering through Undergraduate Acadamies. "I would definitely go back, even though I couldn't feel my toes."
At the core, the Powder Keg Festival united the community around games of broomball, sledding, and the occasional camel. In spirit, the event was about the warmth of giving, even when surrounded by the cold.