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Parade, picnic promote unity in South Buffalo

An incident that occurred Tuesday in South Buffalo involving the keying of a racial slur onto the hood and trunk of a car in the Old First Ward was one of several offenses that have recently taken place in the area.

But community members displayed a different side of Buffalo on Sunday.

Heacock Park was filled with excitement as young boys clashed with their air-balloon swords in pretend duels. Children screeched in delight as they slid down the inflatable stairs of a bounce house. The grass glistened with the sticky, vibrant remnants of a Silly String war.

South Buffalo Alive and the Greater South Buffalo Chamber of Commerce hosted a picnic in the park Sunday afternoon, following South Buffalo's Parade of Circles. About 400 people gathered in Heacock Park, the last stop of the parade that began on McKinley Parkway.

This was the 10th year for the parade and picnic, designed to ring in the summer for South Buffalo. But the main goal of the festivities was to bring the community closer, in a positive way.

"A lot of wonderful things have happened in South Buffalo," said Ann Enger, executive director at the Greater South Buffalo Chamber of Commerce.

Everyone loves the parade, she said, which invites every school and organization in the area to participate. The parade and picnic are venues for community members to meet each other and, in some instances, reunite.

"You always run into someone you know at the parade," Enger said. "Always. Everyone shows up."

Many South Buffalo residents agree that more events should be held in Heacock Park, particularly to lessen crime in the area and promote unity.

Resident Ashley Venters lives near St. Jude's Episcopal Church, which she said had recently been tagged with graffiti by children. She believes more community events at the park would prevent such vandalism.

"It would give the kids something to do, so that they don't resort to such things, especially when some of those kids are as young as 8 years old," she said.

Venters, who brought her 7-year-old, 2-year-old and 6-month-old children to the picnic for the first time, suggested building a playground at the park.

"It would keep kids out of trouble," she said. "And it really only takes a few people to make that difference."

Resident Peggy Enfield has been bringing her two children to the picnic since the tradition first began. She also believes more events should be held in the park. Her kids marched in the parade as part of Discovery School.

"And then they bring me here to the picnic after, they love it," she said. "We need more of these."

Several businesses sponsored the parade and then showed up to host booths at the picnic. Vendors included representatives from local bakeshop KupKates and Bob Herlan, a salesman who has sold light-up toys and hats at the picnic for the last decade.

The Army Career Center in Cheektowaga allowed children to make special dog tags with their names, commemorating the Parade of Circles.

Shawn Lake, a 10-year-old resident of Remolino Street, received his dog tag after watching members of his school, Lorraine Elementary, march in the parade. He held up the dog tag excitedly and displayed it to his brother and cousin.

"I love watching the parade," Shawn said, "and I come every year to the picnic. It's great."

Photo on Picture Page, C10.