Ramble, Picnic bookend weekend of events in Batavia
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Ramble, Picnic bookend weekend of events in Batavia

Jun 30, 2016

The summer events calendar took some major hits this year with the cancelation of popular festivals, including Summer in the City. But Batavia will be rocking this weekend with a pair of beloved events that have kept Batavians entertained for nearly 50 years combined.

The 11th annual Ramble Music and Arts Fest will run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at Jackson Square, while the 38th annual GO ART! Picnic in the Park is scheduled for noon to 5:30 p.m. Monday in Centennial Park. They bookend a long weekend that is sure to make residents forget what has been lost.

“This is a great thing, because the people of Batavia can come out and mingle with each other in great community events,” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski. “I think we need more of these events. We’ve seen some end for various reasons. When I was young, every church and every neighborhood held events. We don’t see that much now.”

The Ramble and Picnic in the Park draw different crowds. The ramble appeals to older concertgoers, while Picnic in the Park is designed for families with young children. But they do have two things in common this year: a renewed focus on art and new leadership.

Paul Draper III has taken the reins of the Ramble from founder Bill McDonald this year and pledges to better balance the festival.

“It’s the Ramble Music and Arts Fest, but I think it has been lacking on the arts side,” Draper said. “That’s what I really want to drive.”

The Ramble will feature more vendors and artists along Center Street to go along with the more than 30 bands that will play on two stages.

For Jennifer Gray and Gregory Hallock, new directors of the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council, pushing art at Picnic in the Park is about staying true to GO ART’s mission statement.

“I keep going back to the phrase, ‘We are dedicated to developing the cultural life by facilitating the creation, presentation and experience of the arts,’” Gray said. “It’s essential that any and all of our programming, events and functions stay true to that mission. So that meant some changes to Picnic, changes that will enhance our communities experience in the arts.”

That means saying goodbye to the carriage rides around the park, but the addition of a massive balloon installation from Airigami.

The Ramble is a brilliant showcase of the musical talent that can be found in the area. It’s a day-long jam concert with acoustic and full band sets. There will also be artist demonstrations throughout the event.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of phone calls,” said Draper, who will perform with his band Bandera during the Ramble. “Fortunately, the music side of it is easy, because the musicians have all been doing this for years and know the routine.”

Picnic in the Park will once again feature musical performances from the Batavia Concert Band and other acts, as well as food vendors, an art show and sale and the ever-popular Kiddie Parade at 11:30 a.m. In a fortunate twist, Hallock will lead the parade dressed in the Uncle Sam costume that was worn by Harold Milward during the first Picnic in 1978.

A full list of musical acts and events can be found at www.goart.org.

Both Draper and Gray said they want to expand their festivals in future years, making them “bigger and better.”

“We’re losing a lot of events in downtown Batavia, which is sad, because there is so much quality entertainment out there,” Draper said. “Hopefully, this will become bigger and better as some of these things are no longer available to us.”

“We are in the midst of an upswing here in Genesee County and GO ART! can be a huge partner in developing the cultural life that people seek and want,” Gray added. “Picnic in the Park can be a spring board for us to help make that happen here in Genesee County.”

By MATT KRUEGER, Batavia Daily News

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