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blog by Emily Stoll  • 

There are so many different ways to make a hamburger—greasy fast food, specialty burgers decked out with all sorts of crazy toppings or even a good, old-fashioned cheeseburger off the grill. Celebrate 126 years of this staple of summer at the Hamburg Burgerfest.

Burgerfest will start Saturday at 11 a.m. on Main Street and Buffalo Street in the village of Hamburg.

Hamburgers were supposedly created in Hamburg by brothers Frank and Charles Menches and, like so many great creations, were unplanned. In 1885, the Menches brothers sold grilled sausage patties on a round bun at what would become the Erie County Fair. When they ran out of supplies, they used some ground beef from a local butcher and mixed in brown sugar, coffee and other things. Their new creation was a big hit, and they barely hesitated to name it the hamburger, in honor of the town. One hundred years later, in 1985, an old article about the wildly popular new creation surfaced - and Burgerfest was born.

There’s a great lineup of events this year, starting with the 5k Character Chase, put on by the Character Council in Hamburg.

“[The races] sort of open up our burger fest,” said Event Coordinator Sue Ganey. Teams of four will start at Union Pleasant Elementary School and race through the town, with awards to the top teams.

After the race, the festival really gets going with music, food, arts and crafts, merchants and more. The festival boasts 28 restaurants and 70 merchants this year. There is a good variety of food, according to Ganey, who was excited to note that all of Hamburg’s Southtown restaurants would be present for the Taste of Hamburg Food Court.

“[Vendors] have to serve one beef item,” Ganey explained, “because one year they ran out of hamburgers.” Each stand is allowed beverages and three entrees, and all items are $4 or less. You can treat your taste buds to a lot of interesting foods, including chocolate hamburgers, deep fried Oreos and Twinkies, Swedish meatballs, barbecue and Italian burgers or hamburger ice cream sandwiches. The Menches brothers’ original hamburger will even be present, courtesy of Imagine Hamburg.

This year’s food will be judged by:

• Judy and John Menches, descendants of the Menches brothers
• Bob Ganey, president of Century 21 Ganey Real Estate
• Bryan Whitmeyer, a senior vice-president at Disney World and a Hamburg native
• Brad Hafner, head of West Herr Automotive

There’s also a burger eating contest, which you can sign up for the day of the event. It costs $5 for anyone 17 and under and $10 for anyone 18 and older, with the proceeds helping out the Western New York Food Bank.

If you’ve got a bed frame, a few wheels and four people with an adventurous and fun-loving spirit, sign up for the annual bed race. Participants make teams of one rider and three pushers to decorate their bed and set up shop at the festival. It’s all in good fun - but that doesn’t mean it isn’t competitive.

“I heard through the grapevine that one of the teams was running time trials in their parking lot,” Ganey said.

You can sign up as late as the morning of the race, as long as you can have your bed at the “drop off zone” by 4 p.m. The best decorated bed will take $50 in Burgerfest tickets. The fastest wins a $100 certificate, and second place gets a $50 certificate.

What would a festival be without music? Burgerfest has some great acts lined up this year, including a bit of Irish music and performances by Five To One, Bello Voice Studio Singers, “23 Skidoo” Buffalo Street Dixieland Music, Large Marvin and the 2009 Buffalo Music Hall of Fame band Hit N Run. A few high school bands will also take the stage in the teens’ area.

The third annual Hamburg Film Festival starts at 1 p.m. at the Hamburg Palace Theatre, featuring films by local students. One of the Harry Potter movies will also be shown after the students’ works.

Don’t miss out on the Solar Cookfest, beer corner or car show. Join in the fun at Mike Margerum’s “Nickel City Road Show” - which includes hula-hoop contests - and Dennis George’s “The Quizmaster!” live game show. There’s even a First Niagara Kids Space, with games, a bounce house and face painting.

“We have a million things going on,” Ganey said. “I’m just so excited about it! It’s going to be fun.”

The Hamburg Burgerfest is put together by the Kiwanis, the Hamburg Lions Club, the Hamburg Rotary Evening Club and the Hamburg Rotary Sunrise Club.

Applications and more information are available online.

A schedule of events is on the Burgerfest website.

TAGGED: burgers, hamburger, hamburgers buffalo

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