Irish eyes were smiling for Buffalo's St. Paddy's Day parade

Mar 20, 2017

So what did you do this weekend? Chances are you took part in some sort of St. Patrick's Day celebration, culminating with downtown Buffalo's parade up Delaware Avenue.

The Buffalo City Guard kicked off the parade with the traditional pipes and drums. Bishop Richard Malone also was there, after a mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral, during which he talked about the religious aspects of the parade. The Boston native said Buffalo's parade is better than his hometown.

"There's just more, I don't know, there's more energy, there's more, I don't want to say more dignity to it. It's just a wonderful, wonderful kind of spirit to this parade," said Malone. "Boston's was good, too, but there's something about this one that's special."

For one group, the 2017 parade had special meaning. The Blackthorn Club, celebrating its 100th anniversary, marched at the front of the parade. President Dan McCue said the history reaches back into a different Buffalo.

"There were a number of Irish organizations, just like there were Italian organizations, Polish, and, because everybody was relegated pretty much to the First Ward and to South Buffalo, they formed into cliques, they formed rowing clubs. They had racing clubs. Boxing was very big in those days. Horse racing," he said.

McCue said the club remains active, although smaller than when Buffalo Irish were mostly confined to the Old First Ward and reaching into South Buffalo.

It is also the annual recognition of Buffalo's long history of unskilled labor on the waterfront and power in politics, business and industry. Parade Grand Marshall Jeff Wilson said the parade also signals the end of winter.

"Bringing everybody together. It's almost like a rite of spring. Everybody's cooped up, winter long," Wilson said. "And here it is, it's always a good day. A lot of people want to get out and celebrate."

"Buffalo's Irish eyes are smiling," said Congressman Brian Higgins. "It's a beautiful day. An enthusiastic and exuberant crowd along the parade route. Everybody's well behaved. It's a great celebration of Buffalo and it's great to be Irish."

The slightly warmer weather meant the crowd and the marchers were not as frozen as has happened in some past parades. The crowd enjoyed the marchers, the horns and whistles, the pipes and drums and the rhythmic tap of Irish dancers on their mobile stages.

New York State Senator Tim Kennedy said it was a great conclusion to the week of entertainment and crowds circulating in the city and enjoying basketball and the recognition of Ireland's patron saint.

"Today is a wonderful day for Buffalo. We're showcasing our city, yet again, right on the heels of the NCAA tournament. We have a crowd of tens and tens of thousands of people right here along Delaware Avenue for a great parade day. So, we're excited to be a part of that," Kennedy said.

That seemed to be the idea, as marchers waved to the crowds and the crowds waved back and everyone enjoyed a mostly trouble-free day. Buffalo Police reported 10 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct, near Chippewa Street and Delaware Avenue. The Erie County Sheriff's Office reports nine DWI arrests in the suburbs.