Almost everyone seemed to wearing a bit ’o the green Sunday, as thousands of people lined Delaware Avenue in Buffalo for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Strings of shiny plastic beads or shamrocks accessorized many outfits, but spectators who found they were underdressed for the freezing temperatures and occasionally stiff breezes converged on a booth where green sweatshirts were prominently displayed.
How was business?
“Good, with the cold,” answered Matt Burke, who was selling sweatshirts for $20 each. “Selling a lot of gloves,” he added, at $5 a pair.
Memories of last year’s T-shirt-and-shorts weather left many spectators muttering about Sunday’s brisk conditions.
“It’s cold …,” said a young woman cuddling her son on Delaware Avenue, after asking another spectator to move from blocking the view and the sunshine they were enjoying.
That wasn’t the case for John and Vicki Haas of Lawtons, who stood, unobstructed, on Niagara Square, watching for their son’s unit to join the parade. “The weather’s nicer than it usually is,” said John Haas, who said he missed last year’s parade but has endured snow and rain in the past.
St. Patrick’s Day has become St. Patrick’s Weekend in Buffalo, where a luncheon and concert were held Friday, followed by the “Old Neighborhood” parade on Saturday. Sunday’s events began with Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard J. Malone in St. Joseph Cathedral.
The sound of four revving police motorcycles, followed minutes later by the squawk of sirens, heralded the start of the parade.
Leading the way was D Company Buffalo City Guard – Gordon Highlanders, followed by Grand Marshal Mark R. O’Neill of Hamburg. The parade was dedicated to the memory of Lt. Thomas J. “Shakey” Masterson Sr., a longtime Buffalo police officer who died in 2009.
O’Neill, who was bestowed the honor of grand marshal by the United Irish American Association of Erie County, was walking solo, several paces ahead of his deputy marshals. Behind them was his St. Patrick’s Day posse: dozens of friends and relatives wearing “O’Neill” sashes.
And behind them was a motorized trolley carrying even more friends and family.
Following them up Delaware Avenue were waves of high-stepping dancers, bagpipers and fraternal organizations, among others. As trade unions joined the procession, two other groups with four-legged marchers awaited their cues.
One group was the Irish Setter Club of Western New York. Ten adult setters – including an Irish red and white setter, plus an Irish water spaniel and four puppies travelling in a paddy wagon – were waiting to take their places.
“Irish setters have been marching in this parade for 30 years,” said Ellen Bieler, as the group gathered on Court Street.
The other group was the Buffalo Dachshund Club, which has been participating the past few years.
“When our club started, we kind of knew that parades would be a great way to spread the word about our club,” said Emily Perryman, its founder. “It’s kind of a nice way to draw people to our Facebook [page] … and all the good stuff we do for rescues.”
Perryman said her dog, Ruth, was a former puppy mill breeder.
Gathering with their humans on Niagara Street, the dachshunds took leave of their German heritage for the day and also were bedecked in some manner of green.
“They’re all Irish today,” said Wendy Beck of Buffalo, who was there with her dogs, Wagner and Sebastian.