If you're a local elected official, St. Patrick's Day in Buffalo means making an appearance at the Buffalo Irish Center. Many local politicians joined local citizens to celebrate Irish-American heritage Friday at the Abbott Road venue.
Following a flag-raising ceremony and parade inside the building, Bishop Richard Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo offered a blessing as well as a commutation.
Because St. Patrick's Day falls on a Lenten Friday this year, he explained, he granted practicing Catholics in Western New York the opportunity to consume meat today, in exchange for honoring a day of abstinence later in the Lenten season. Many within the room took advantage of the offer, so they could enjoy the corned beef and cabbage that was distributed shortly after.
Among the many guests in the hall were a who's-who of local politics, from Congressman Brian Higgins to Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul to numerous others at the state, county and city levels.
Also enjoying St. Patrick's Day lunch were some who are interested in political office. One of them was Steve Cichon, a local historian and former longtime Buffalo broadcaster. He's interested in running for Erie County Clerk and liked having the opportunity to be in the presence of two others who previously held the position, Hochul and David Swarts.
"It's one of those great jobs, one of the few in politics, where the rubber hits the road and you can really talk to people and make an impact on somebody's interaction with government, in a way you can't with many other jobs," Cichon said.
Also there was State Assemblyman Michael Kearns, who also desires the Clerk's office. He sees it as a means to continue much of his work at the state level, including the eradication of dilapidated "zombie" properties, at the municipal level.
"I feel as if I can make an impact at the local level and really bring something that can really help people, who are going through the process, and the community," Kearns said.
Other upcoming election rivals in the same room were Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and City Comptroller Mark Schroeder, who seeks Brown's job.
St. Patrick's Day is a day, though, when elected officials and others connected in politics take a break and enjoy the holiday's traditions simply as Western New Yorkers.
Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw noted that he and some of his philosophical rivals have enjoyed pints and fish fries together.
"I think that's what's really missing with politics," he said. "Especially with the national elections, things can seem a little hurtful in many respects. But on a day like today Democrats, Republicans, everyone comes together and, for the most part, everyone gets along and break bread together and put our differences aside."
He added that it's also his chance, for one day, to be "Stefan O'Mychajliw."