Friday 4 July 2014

Starry Night in the Garden 2014 - Buffalo, NY

Despite living in the GTA, both my mother and I listen to a radio station from Buffalo, NY – Star 102.5. It started years ago, when they became the only station we knew of to play 24/7 Christmas songs from mid-November onward and we got hooked (we both love Christmas music!) We loved the morning show host Rob Lucas, who was enjoyable to listen to. I find most of the Toronto morning shows more annoying then enjoyable, as they have multiple hosts going back and forth over the silliest of topics. Rob Lucas speaks in a way that you feel he is truly talking to you, and always has a great mix of humor and seriousness, with relevant topics. The other radio announcers and hosts are also great to listen to, so Star has become our station!

For the last few years they have hosted an event called ‘Starry Night in the Gardens’ which is held at the Botanical Gardens in South Buffalo. It’s an evening that has food, wine, and multiple musical acts which benefits the programs and upkeep of the gardens. Each year mom and I have wanted to attend, but the timing never worked out. This year we vowed as soon as the event was announced, we were marking it in our calendars and booking tickets and a hotel.

We were able to get tickets through a pre-sale, and opted for the VIP tickets. Regular admission was $45.00 and VIP was $100 and included drinks and a meal. Not knowing what to expect from the event, and having paid around $100 for numerous other concerts, we figured it was worth it. Plus, if it turned out not to be – we would know for next time.

The event was held on Wednesday June 18th, and started at 6:00pm. The musical acts were Kodaline (a band from Dublin, Ireland) and Great Big World (an American group composed of two singers/song writers). That morning on our drive down to Buffalo, we heard Rob Lucas talking about the event and what to expect. He was answering questions on air, and mentioned that guests could bring lawn chairs or blankets. Not knowing anything about the event, or what VIP entailed, I quickly sent off a question on twitter asking if VIP would also need chairs or blankets. Within minutes my question was answered on air. That’s something else I love about Rob Lucas and Star 102.5 – they are always effectively using social media to connect with their listeners! Awesome job guys!

Thank goodness I asked, because it meant we had time to stop and buy lawn chairs! Sitting on the grass would have been fine, but the lawn chairs were far more comfortable.

My dad also came with us, so by 5:30pm, (after a stop at the outlets and Walden Galleria) my parents and I arrived at the gardens and found a parking spot. Parking along the sides and roads were free, but there was a lot near the entrance that was charging $10.00 in donations to the gardens – definitely worth it. The Botanical Gardens are beautiful – it is this large, white building on an expansive green lawn. My husband Brian actually used to live down the street from it when he was living in Buffalo, but of all the times I visited we never got around to going. We really missed out!

Checking in was an easy process, and we were given our wristband, VIP lanyard, and a wine glass. We made our way up the lawn, and set our chairs up just outside the VIP tent. One of the bands were doing a sound check, and a bunch of booths and vendors were finishing getting set up.  As a first time guest, we didn’t realize a few things at that time. First, we were able to get in a bit early due to being VIP. At 6:00, the place started to fill up quickly and soon blankets and chairs were everywhere. Secondly, we didn’t realize that almost everything was included. When we saw the tents and booths across the park, we incorrectly assumed those wineries and restaurants were selling samples – similar to the Niagara Wine Festival.  In actuality, these wine and food samples were also included for both general admission and VIP. Once we realized this, we had already eaten in the VIP tent, and the crowds and lines were long. Next year, we would go to that area first, and check out the various vendors, wineries and restaurants before it got busy, and do the VIP tent later.

VIP was definitely worth it. There was a buffet set up, that included a delicious chicken mac and cheese, pulled pork, fruit, bread, salads, potatoes and vegetables. They were giving away Pom-tini samples, and had a bar filled with a variety of soft drinks, water, wine, beer, and coolers. The view from just outside that area was great, and we picked an awesome seat.

"But first, lemme take a selfie!"

The best seats in the house that a listener - not Canadian one's :( - could win

We were only slightly familiar with the bands – just knowing the songs that Star had been playing. Kodaline is known for the song “All I want” which has been on TV shows, and is now in “The Fault in Our Stars” and Great Big World for the songs “Say Something” (which features Christina Aguilera) and “Already Home”.

Both bands were great. A few of the lyrics to Kodaline’s songs were a bit hard to make out, but the music was excellent.  And Great Big World was awesome – the energy that the two main guys had was remarkable! Both groups really engaged with the audience, which was nice to see. Often when a group or artist gets big, they stop doing that during their shows. When I got home, I made sure to download both groups’ albums, as they were truly enjoyable. Often you go to events like this, and the music is just okay – that was far from the case here.

Great Big World

The Botanical Gardens building remained open for the event, so you could go inside and walk around. You could also use their toilet facilities, which was awesome. There were portapotties as well, but I much prefer a working washroom. There were raffles, and other contests happening, and the Star 102.5 team was walking around and engaging with fans. Mom and I got to meet and get a photo with Rob Lucas, which was awesome, and he is just as nice in person as he seems on air!

Overall it was a fantastic evening, and one that we will definitely return to. It benefits a great place, and the VIP tickets are well worth the cost!   

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