Community celebrations a show of Irish pride
By Terry Duffy
Ready for St. Patrick's Day?
A report by WalletHub finds the Buffalo-Niagara area ranks No. 4 among the best U.S. cities when it comes to celebrating Irish-American heritage for 2018. In its rating, WalletHub examined "17 key metrics, ranging from Irish pubs and restaurants per capita to lowest price for a three-star hotel on St. Patrick's Day to weather forecasts."
While rated in the top 5, Buffalo did, in fact, drop from its coveted No. 1 rank in the U.S. last year. The top three went in order to Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia - all with far bigger population markets than small-city Buffalo.
But that's not to say this region shouldn't be proud about its distinction as being a hotbed when it comes to Irish culture and St. Patrick's celebrations. Far from it. In the WalletHub poll, Buffalo beat out such national Irish strongholds as New York City, San Francisco and Pittsburgh - and smaller but equally Irish-dominant communities as Savannah, Georgia; Overland Park, Kansas; and Syracuse.
"It looks like Buffalo has the luck of the Irish when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick's Day!" said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown upon hearing the news. "The City of Good Neighbors was ranked one of the top cities in the nation to celebrate the holiday! Please share to show your pride in Buffalo!"
Showing Irish pride - it's something Buffalo knows how to do quite well.
You see it all over the area. Events such as the Old First Ward Shamrock Run and neighborhood hooley party last weekend, the St. Pat's breakfasts and civic lunches this week at the Irish Center in South Buffalo, countless social gatherings in clubs, St. Patrick's Day bar-crawls, pub parties, house decorations, community celebrations, church Masses, and more in the area.
And, oh yes, the parades. There's a parade in the city's Old First Ward, the "World's Shortest Parade" in Niagara Falls, a unique shopping cart parade of fine Irish greenery in Youngstown, and that grand parade down Delaware Avenue in Buffalo that draws tens of thousands, among others.
And that's just a glimpse of the local St. Pat's scene in Erie and Niagara counties. Look beyond into southern Ontario or more into Western New York, and you'll find pages and pages of St. Patrick's Day events and celebrations online to check out.
Yes, when it comes to St. Patrick's celebrations, the folks in Buffalo-Niagara indeed know how to do it. Those of "traditional Irish stock" - Irish-Catholic diehards often called by my grandfather, Nat Duffy (now deceased) - typically refer to this time of year as "the High Holy Days."
And with good reason.
Next weekend will see a number of St. Patrick's celebrations, big and small, far and wide - and all guaranteed to be a good time in Buffalo-Niagara.
So many celebrations. Here's just a sampling:
•Up in northern Niagara, there's a good one to kick off Saturday, March 17, in Youngstown with the annual O'Riordan St. Patrick's Day Parade on Main Street starting at noon. YBPA President Cheryl Irish Butera invites the community to attend and enjoy the event, which is sponsored by the Youngstown Business and Professional Association, with co-sponsorship by the village and Youngstown Police Department.
To be held rain, snow or shine, the event is open to all who want to join in. As in past years, the parade's staple of decorated shopping carts will again be provided by Melloni's Market Place on Lockport Street for all who want to participate and have fun, for what Butera said she hopes would be a parade of green.
"The participants, literally, continue 'rolling in' right up to the day itself. It's always more than the year before," said Butera. "Our O'Riordan St. Patrick's Day Parade has everything. It's free. It's fun. It's family-oriented."
"This parade began because our (late) Mayor Neil Riordan had always wanted an Irish parade," she recalled. "Unfortunately, he died in 2011, but, in his honor, the parade goes on."
Butera called this event a true community parade, with its marchers being such familiar Youngstown faces as Old Fort Niagara (whose soldiers offer a parade-ending musket salute to Riordan), members of the Youngstown and Ransomville fire companies, Youngstown Police, YBPA members, local and area elected officials, Niagara County Peach Queen Jamie Hagerty, Scouts and youth groups, plus a host of area businesses, such as the new Youngstown Galley, the Village Dinner, the Mug and Musket, the Jug, Bandana's, Somewhere, the Youngstown Dance Shop with Amy Roush's dancers and more. Also expected to join are participants from the McCarthy School of Irish Dance, and Youngstown's Mackenzie Highlanders Pipe and Drum Corps.
Among the highlights this year, Butera said Michael Riordan, grandson of the late mayor, will serve as grand marshal for the parade, with his mother, Jodee Riordan, serving as mistress of ceremonies.
"YBPA decided it makes sense for Neil's grandson to lead the parade," said Butera.
Another noteworthy will be Youngstown resident Colleen Mary Johnson, who will be creating a wedding float for the parade to celebrate her marriage that day to WIVB-TV Channel 4's Daniel Allen Summerville.
Butera said the parade route will run from Hinman Street, north on Main Street to Falkner Park, and end at the Mug and Musket. Porter Justice David Truesdale will serve as judge for the "best float" entered.
Butera invited residents from throughout the area to visit and enjoy the parade; stop by afterword at the Youngstown Lions Cash Bash at the nearby Red Brick Village Center and be sure to patronize area bars/restaurants.
For more, visit the YBPA Facebook page.
•Another can't-miss is the annual St. Patrick's Day celebration, starting at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Somewhere Bar and Grill on Blairville Road. There, owner/operator Pat Stack will once again host what has become Niagara County's largest St. Paddy's Day Party, featuring the music of the Irish Wake Band.
"This is our fourth year hosting the event," said Stack, who also is frontman for the band. "It just keeps getting bigger and better every year."
He said the party will run from 2-10 p.m., with the band underway at 5 p.m.
Stack said he expects this year's party to be even bigger. Again this year, he will serve delicious corned beef sandwiches and fixings with plenty of festive beverages.
"Every year we are surprised by the turnout, and sometimes it catches us a little off guard, but this year we will be ready with bigger tents, and much more food and beverages for all," Stack said.
He noted it amazes him how far people come to celebrate. Stack said he expected visitors from Buffalo, Erie County, Rochester and Syracuse - not to mention the people who once lived here and are now living in Florida, California and elsewhere who have reached out to him letting him know they will be there.
"It's just awesome," Stack said.
Aside from the popularity of the Irish music and seeing all the camaraderie and smiles, Stack attributed some of the success of the event to the unique shuttle service Somewhere will again offer visitors.
"I think the shuttle service is a big attraction, as we just want everyone to be able to have a good time, and not worry about transportation," Stack said.
He added the shuttles have been his goal from the first year but, due to the popularity of the event, Somewhere had to make some modifications this year.
"While Majestic/Greyline do a fantastic job, it isn't feasible to do door-to-door service for so many people, as there just aren't enough shuttles to go around," Stack said.
He explained the shuttle service will now be more centered on neighborhood-by-neighborhood. Rather than visitors calling in their address and having door-to-door service, the shuttles will serve neighborhood areas with no calling in.
"There will be six or seven shuttles circling around every 30 minutes or so in different areas of Lewiston, Youngstown, Ransomville, etc.," he said.
For more information on the shuttles, look for posts on Somewhere's Facebook page in coming days.
Still more St. Patrick's activities to check out:
•The 36th annual St. Patrick's Day celebration, from 5-10 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at the Conference Center, 101 Old Falls St., Niagara Falls.
Presented by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Rev. James J. Browne, Niagara County Chapter, the event opens with the "World's Shortest Parade" at 4:45 p.m. The Irish cultural experience continues inside the Conference Center. Included will be an assortment of foods such as corned beef and cabbage, family entertainment by the McCarthy School of Irish Dance, music by the Dave North Trio, and servings of pop, beer and wine.
Tickets are $9 advance sale or $10 at the door. Collections will also be made that evening to benefit the Heart, Love & Soul Food Pantry, in memory of "On Gorta Mor," the Great Irish Hunger of 1845.
For more information, visit the AOHNF page on Facebook, www.aohnf.com
or call 716-990-3546.
•The 2018 St. Patrick's Day Parade on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo is 2 p.m., Sunday, March 18. It begins from Niagara Square and continues north to North Street.
Presented annually by the United Irish American Association, the parade is Buffalo's largest celebration of Irish heritage. Enthusiastic crowds typically numbering well over 100,000 line Delaware Avenue as the Irish dancers, bands, civic organizations and others march proudly by in celebration and in honor of St. Patrick.
The community celebrates St. Patrick's Day at Somewhere in the Town of Porter. (Photo by Terry Duffy)