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Canalside to host three-day winter festival

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WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Luring large crowds to the downtown waterfront on a balmy summer day is one thing. But planners know that the key to making Canalside a success involves turning it into a year-round destination.

That's one reason the evolving district is hosting the 2015 HarborCenter Winterfest at Canalside, a three-day bash that will offer a variety of events.

Happy hours are quite common, but Winterfest will feature an outdoor happy hour in front of (716) Food and Sport, the popular restaurant that recently opened in HarborCenter. Starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday, guests will be treated to live music and have a chance to win prizes. 

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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The Ice at Canalside providing new winter recreation in downtown Buffalo.

Other events include free horse-drawn carriage rides around Canalside on Saturday and free activities for kids. There will be a heated tent where a disc jockey will be playing music. On Sunday, as the semi-final round of the Women's U18 World Championship is waged in HaborCenter, people will be able to meet Sabretooth and members of the Sabres Alumni Association.

Staging a smorgasbord of events that appeal to a wide array of people is key to sustaining the momentum that Canalside has enjoyed, said HarborCenter President John Koelmel.

"There's no one-hit wonder here," said Koelmel, who underscored the importance of offering a diverse menu of events and attractions.

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Credit Chris Caya/WBFO News
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HaborCenter President John Koelmel.

Koelmel said public response to HarborCenter, the outdoor skating on the Ice at Canalside and otherattractions has been overwhelming. But can the momentum be sustained?

"There's no question this snowball will continue to get bigger as we go," Koelmel replied. "We're excited.

The key to making the Canalside district a long-term success also involves components beyond entertainment.

"We're close to buttoning up the beginnings of a retail presence here in HarborCenter that I'm confident will spawn more [retail] for the district. And then the residential will follow," he said.

The challenge in transforming the downtown waterfront into  an around-the-clock people magnet will require substantial retail and residential components, many urban planners have stated.

"It goes back to sustainability -- making it a real neighborhood," Koelmel said.