The City of Buffalo will be awash in a sea of green this weekend with not one, but two St. Patrick’s Day parades.
The 21st annual “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick’s Day Parade will wind through the historic streets of the Valley and Old First Ward starting at noon at 93 Leddy St. on Saturday, while the city parade sponsored by the United Irish American Association of Erie County kicks off at 2 p.m. Sunday on Delaware Avenue in front of City Hall.
And for the grand marshal of the city parade, this will be only his third time walking the route.
Chris Laffler, of the Town of Tonawanda, has worked for many years on the parade as a route and division marshal, and in recent years has been responsible for handling people and bus traffic at the end of the parade at Delaware and North Street.
“You have to get there at least an hour, hour and a half before the parade starts because there are buses that have dropped off different groups, and that needs to be organized, so I usually don’t get a chance to even see much of it,” he said.
Not this year.
“I’ll be the first person walking down the street behind the police who kind of clear the sides back,” said Laffler, who will get a unique view of the enormous procession.
At his side on Sunday will be his deputy marshals: his wife, Christine, their sons Brenden and Connor, and Laffler’s longtime friend Garry Johnson, president of the UIAA.
After that will march a group of Laffler’s family and close friends, along with the Gordon Highlanders.
“It will be a different perspective for them, rather than standing along the sidelines and waving,” he said.
Laffler plans to carry a traditional blackthorn walking stick given to him by Johnson.
“The whole experience so far has been wonderful,” Laffler said. “The people who have done it before me all say that you don’t know what to expect until you’re in it, and it’s a little different for everybody.”
Laffler said some of his co-workers at General Mills, where he is a customer account manager, plan to attend.
In addition to his work on the parade, Laffler, a longtime parishioner of St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish in Tonawanda, co-founder and president of the St. John’s Athletic Association, where he also serves as a coach, and president of the Parish Council and Holy Name Society. He is also a member of the Hamburg Men’s Golf Club, the Buffalo Irish Center and the West Seneca Social Club.
The UIAA parade is dedicated to the memory of Margaretmary “Peggy” Roberts Dobmeier, co-owner of John E. Roberts Funeral Home. Both her parents were past grand marshals of the parade, and Roberts family members have been division marshals of the parade for more than 50 years. Peggy’s husband, Robert Dobmeier, and three children – Mary, Anne and Robert – will lead a large contingent of family and friends marching in her memory.
Before the parade begins, Bishop Richard J. Malone will celebrate Mass starting at 10:30 a.m. in St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
Jeremiah Hassett, a retired Buffalo police officer and Marine Corps veteran, will be grand marshal of the Valley parade. Hassett, who was born on Tennessee Street in the Old First Ward, now lives in Tonawanda. He retired from the Police Department in 1998 after 36 years with the rank of detective sergeant.
He was a founding member of the Police Emerald Society and was president of the Buffalo Police Detectives Sergeant Club for 10 years, as well as being active in the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association for more than 20 years. On parade day, he will be joined by his wife, MaryAnn, and family.
The parade will be in memory of four local supporters of the Valley Community Association and parade who died in the past year: Virginia “Ginny” Decker, Rita Deschamps, Gert Hoffstetter and Kevin Wiles.
A traditional grand Irish “Hooley” featuring food, drink and live music by the LeftOvers will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Valley Community Center.