Buffalo-Niagara ranks high in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations
By Terry Duffy
Oh for St. Patrick’s Day!
Signs of the area’s celebrating have begun to appear. From last weekend’s Shamrock Run with 4,300 participants in Buffalo’s Old First Ward neighborhood, to those Irish flags popping up on street poles, glowing shamrocks appearing in area businesses and more, the St. Patrick’s celebrations are heating up.
You see, Buffalo-Niagara does it quite well when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day. It’s typically seen as an annual rite of spring. Area residents, well tired from the torrid of a lengthy winter, see it as an opportunity to celebrate and let loose, if you will.
As such, Buffalo-Niagara, which boasts of good proportion of Irish residents for its modest size, has come to rank impressively on a national scale when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day. Departures Magazine, a travel leisure publication, ranks Buffalo No. 7 on its list of the 10 best cities in the U.S. to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Departures stated, “Several parades, including the world’s shortest, where ‘marchers’ circle Talty’s Tavern, are part of the Buffalo celebration. The ‘Old Neighborhood’ Parade is held on Saturday in the city’s Old First Ward where original Irish immigrants settled. After the parade, the Valley Community Center serves corned beef and potatoes, and pubs around town feature live Irish music.
“Sunday, March 17, is the big parade, starting at noon. Leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, the 8K Shamrock Run 2019 (took place) on Saturday, March 2. Visitors to Buffalo might want to learn a bit of Irish history at the Western New York Irish Famine Memorial, dedicated to those who starved or emigrated to places like Buffalo during the mid-1800s.”
Over at the personal finance website Wallet Hub, Buffalo-Niagara ranks No. 14 overall among the 2019 Best Cities for St. Patrick’s celebrations, and No. 9 against far-bigger metro areas when it comes to “St. Patrick’s Day Traditions.” Included are such metrics as the number of St. Patrick’s Day parades; the historical length of the region’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the number of St. Patrick’s Day parties and festivals per capita; the region’s share of Irish population; Irish pubs and restaurants per capita; access to bars; and Google search interest for St. Patrick’s Day events.
Yes, WNY does rate very favorably against others when it comes to St. Patrick’s celebrations. And come next week, there’s a three-day weekend crammed full of events to look forward to.
Here are three good ones to check out:
•In Niagara Falls, the 37th annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration is 5-10 p.m. Friday, and presented by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Rev. James J. Browne Chapter, Division One, Niagara County. This one is touted as “WNY’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration” by its organizers. Held at the Conference & Event Center, 101 Old Falls St., it opens at 4:45 p.m. with the shortest parade – which is literally just across the Old Falls Street-2nd Street intersection.
AOH organizer Lee Patterson invited all to come and experience what he called a totally new St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
“In conjunction with the Event Center, our celebration is going to feel more modernized this year; different LED lighting, decorations, foods, beverages, etc., etc.,” he said.
Inside, visitors will experience Irish celebrating – Niagara Falls style. Included will be the entertainment of international recording artists The Glengarry Boys, The McCarthy School of Irish Dance, plus an Irish DJ. Add to that, hosts of vendors, plenty of family-oriented activities, 50/50 draws and door prizes, servings of corned beef and cabbage and, or course, plenty of beverages.
Patterson said AOH will once again collect nonperishable food items for donation to the Heart, Love & Soul Food Pantry in memory of “on Grota Mor” the Great Irish Hunger of 1845.
Tickets for this celebration are priced at $10, and available presale or at the door. For more information, visit AOH at www.aognf.com or on Facebook.
Irish dancers perform at The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls. (Photo by Larry Austin)
•The eighth annual O’Riordan St. Patrick’s Day begins at noon, Saturday, March 16, on Main Street in Youngstown, presented by the Youngstown Business and Professional Association.
YBPA President Cheryl Irish Butera invited families and visitors to come and be a part of this festive village celebration, which has grown over the years. It’s held each year in memory of the late Neil C. Riordan, the beloved mayor of Youngstown who passed away in 2011.
Butera said the parade was well known among Buffalo-Niagara St. Patrick’s celebrations for a unique feature: festively decorated shopping carts supplied by a Youngstown grocery store that serve as floats. That tradition, however, is on hiatus for 2019 following closure of the business.
“Historically, this parade began with a handful of residents and one shopping cart ‘float’ designed by Anchor Spirits & Wines and Melloni’s Market Place (since closed),” Butera said. “Every year since 2012, this parade has grown. Unfortunately, Youngstown lost their grocery store in 2018. That being said, there are no shopping carts available this year as we await the arrival of a new grocery store.”
Despite the loss of distinctive shopping carts, Butera said the parade’s festive St. Patrick’s atmosphere will continue this year. Residents and visitors are welcome to join in with their creativity and have fun.
“We ask folks to use their imaginations and create a float from anything that has wheels. A car, a wheel barrel, a bicycle, wagon, baby buggy, van, whatever you can think of to give your business or service organization some recognition. Or you can simply decorate your pet dog and walk along with the rest of the participants,” Butera said.
The parade will begin at the corner of Main and Hinman streets on the village’s south end, proceed north to Falkner Park, do a turn-around and conclude at Main and Lockport streets. Celebrations will continue at the Ontario House other Main Street establishments.
Butera said the parade will also maintain its community appeal for visitors with a host of local participants. Expected are Bob Emerson of Old Fort Niagara, who will lead British soldiers in a tribute to Riordan; the pipes and drums of Youngstown’s MacKenzie Highlanders; dancers from Amy Roush’s Dance Shop, Dance Studio; the Youngstown Lions, who will hold a “cash bash” at the Youngstown firehall following the parade; Youngstown Fire Co. and Youngstown Police; Youngstown and Porter elected officials; village businesses; Ki-Po Chevrolet of Ransomville, with its green vehicle; and an expected entrant from Ransomville Speedway (weather permitting).
The Riordan family will be represented by Jodee Riordan as the parade’s mistress of ceremonies. Her son, Michael Riordan (Neil’s grandson), will be grand marshal.
Butera said the parade is free for all to enter. Prizes will be awarded for the best adult entrant as well the best children’s entry, with judging by Town of Porter Justice David Truesdale.
“The best part of this parade is it’s the beginning of spring and everyone gets a chance to get outside and have some fun together,” Butera said. “All are welcome to participate, get their green on, and get a taste of small town America.”
For more information, visit the YBPA online at www.youngstownnewyork.com.
•The fourth annual St. Patrick’s celebration at Somewhere, 681 Blairville Road, Youngstown, will take place from 1-8 p.m. on “the day” – Sunday, March 17.
This one ranks as one of the best of its kind in Niagara County, if not the entire area. Hosted by proprietor Pat Stack, it promises at day full of adult fun, leading off with a St. Patrick’s “Rock’n 5K” at noon to benefit the Youngstown Fire Co.
The event is presented by iRun WNY and Somewhere. It is a one-way race starting from the Youngstown firehall, continuing up Third Street to Oak Street to Youngstown’s Parkside neighborhood, returning the same route to Third at Church streets, then eastward out to Somewhere.
The race is open to men and women ages 21 and over, with trophies and medals provided to the top finishers in ages 21 to 80 and over. Timing is provided by Race Management Solutions.
For more information, contact Paul Beatty at iRun WNY at 716-998-5777.
“This year’s a little different; it’s a daytime party,” Stack said. “We have a 5K run; the run ends here. We’re looking at 200-500 runners. They’re going to start at the firehall and end here.”
And that’s when the celebrating commences. At Somewhere, Stack said the bands will probably start around 2-2:30. “It’s going to be an all day affair – two beer trucks, corned beef sandwiches, potatoes, nonalcoholic drinks. We’ll have everything this year.”
And returning this year will be the popular Irish Wake Band.
“The band is pretty much the same people, a couple of faces have changed,” Stack said. “There’s top musicians from the area – Ray Berry is back in, bagpiper Wolvson, the beautiful Jen is back on violin, Joe Brennan on drums, Joe Slazak, “Meatcleaver” from the Toys band as bass player, Charlie LoTempio from Twin-Lo, a jazz guitar player.”
“It’s a really good, strong band,” Stack said, noting Irish Wake was just booked for the upcoming Celtic Festival. “It’s a huge deal for us; we’re actually going to stick together this time.
“The nice thing this year is that everybody in the band has done it before. The music is coming out perfect. We’ll start off with traditional (Irish songs), then we’ll make it a little bit Boston rock. We’ll start off with the traditional (that) our fathers loved, and then we go into a little more modern, more upbeat, then we go our craziness.”
“The biggest party of the year will be here,” Stack said, noting he expects Irish Wake to play for three to four hours. An Irish DJ is expected to balance off the entertainment.
As far as the setup, visitors can expect three heated tents offering food and bar offerings and plenty of portable restrooms provided by Modern Services. Admission is $5 per person.
Stack said he decided against offering the shuttle services provided last year due to the availability of alternatives such as Uber and Lyft for visitors.
For more information on the Somewhere celebration, visit its Facebook page.
Those planning to celebrate over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend are best advised to seek alternative options to driving, as law enforcement will be out in a special crackdown on impaired driving.
“In a combined effort to stop impaired driving, prevent injuries and save lives, law enforcement officers across New York state will take to the roads,” Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour said in a press release. “The statewide STOP-DWI St. Patrick’s Day crackdown efforts start on March 15 and will end on March 18. The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, as well as law enforcement agencies across Niagara County, will be out in force.”