Stunning weather and ample cups of dark, stout Guinness fueled wide grins among a healthy crowd on hand Saturday for the Buffalo Irish Festival at Canalside.
The 32nd annual event – the celebration of the Queen City’s considerable Irish heritage – is being held for a second year at the newly revitalized waterfront venue. The three-day event concludes today, from noon to 9 p.m.
Gary Jones, of Walnut Creek, Calif., roamed the boardwalk and tents with his brothers and a Buffalo friend, all drinking Guinness. He likened the festival atmosphere to a night owl’s experience: “It’s like being in a bar at 2 a.m. Everybody looks better.”
The Guinness and tamer beverages helped wash down traditional Irish fare, including potato chowder, corned beef and cabbage, salt potatoes, Irish lamb stew, bangers and mash – even a banger hoagie.
What’s a banger? you ask.
John Cadden, 68, who came to the area from County Cavan, Ireland, in 1963 said, betraying an Irish lilt, that a banger is a “kind of Irish breakfast sausage.”
Cadden’s son, Brian Cadden, of Hamburg, said that although his father lives in Newburgh, family visits are planned around the Irish Festival. The three generations enjoying the festival also included Brian’s daughter, Paige, 7, who showed off her air-brushed tattoo.
“It’s a good thing for the family to come to and enjoy ourselves,” said Brian.
Some organizations, including Clann Na Cara Irish Dancing School, sell out their Irish whiskey cakes every year. The Town O’Tonawanda Irish American Club was selling tickets for a chance to win a wheelbarrow of whiskey.
“You get to keep the wheelbarrow, too. It’s like a rolling cooler,” said club member Chuck Riley as he sold tickets.
Susan Kirkpatrick, publicity chairwoman for the Irish Festival, said the festival drew 10,000 people last year, and she expects the crowd this year to exceed that number.
“The weather’s perfect, the breeze is blowing, and the music sounds great. Where else would you want to be, but at Canalside listening to some great music and having a beer or two?” Kirkpatrick said.
Fifteen bands were scheduled to perform each day from two stages in the park.
Crowd favorites include Enter the Haggis of Toronto, Burning Bridget Cleary and the Glengarry Bhoys. All three bands performed Saturday and return to the stage today.
Rich and Stephanie Danieu of West Seneca have been returning to the festival year after year to celebrate their Irish heritage. Their 2-year-old daughter, Mara, dressed for the event – sporting a green and white bow in her hair.
“I’ve been coming back for 15 years. I love it,” said Rich.
“For him this is like Christmas,” said Stephanie.
Kirkpatrick said Canalside is a perfect fit for the festival.
“It’s amazing to see the spirit people bring,” Kirkpatrick said. “Canalside feels like home. This is where the Irish built this city and started here. It’s great to celebrate where it all began.”
Information on parking and entertainment is available at www.buffaloirish.com.