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Blue skies smile upon a sea of green at St. Patrick’s Day parade

There was a lot to take in Sunday at the Delaware Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade as about 70,000 to 80,000 people gathered for the event.

The parade route ran up Delaware Avenue from Niagara Square to North Street, but walking along Edward Street toward the procession before it started, it was clear that revelers were in good spirits.

A group of about a half dozen friends parked near St. Louis Catholic Church on Main Street – a Gothic-style building with red sandstone exterior and a grand spire. They filed out of the Chevy Tahoe that had transported them there and they lined up along the church’s black wrought-iron fence to await the parade.

But first they had to make way for a man pulling a red Radio Flyer wagon filled with blankets and snacks. Following closely behind him were four kids, who breezed past the group of friends.

“Whoa,” said Nicholas Ostrowski, a Lockport resident, who had to jump out of the way.

It was the third year in a row in which Ostrowski has been to the parade, and Sunday he gave the weather two thumbs up.

“The first year I came it was 75 degrees. I was wearing shorts. Last year it was cold and freezing. This year, we got blessed with blue skies,” Ostrowski said.

His friend Matthew Collinridge, who grew up near South Park Avenue, hasn’t missed this parade in 35 years.

“Ever since I was 5 my grandparents took me. It’s kind of a reunion,” Collinridge said.

That’s what the day felt like for the McCabe family, too. Three generations of them had just arrived and were lined up at a hot dog stand at Delaware Avenue and Edward Street waiting for the festivities to start. The parade is an Irish tradition they would not miss.

“We see friends and family at weddings, funerals and the St. Patrick’s Day parade,” said Kathy McCabe. “If you never see them again, you’ll see them here.”

McCabe was with her son Kevin and his three children, Madison, Collin and 6-year-old Ireland, who had green shamrocks painted on her face. Her big sister, Madison, 10, had a green butterfly painted on her face, and their 8-year-old brother, Collin, had the whole Irish flag painted on his face.

All of it was done by their red-bearded dad, Kevin, who wore a green sweatshirt and baseball cap. Standing next to her family in a white winter coat, black pants and black boots, Kathy didn’t look very Irish. But she was not deterred one bit.

“We got the name. That’s all we need,” she joked.

Across the street, a crowd of at least 30 tailgaters wearing all things green were getting themselves comfortable on a black leather sofa that 24-year-old Anthony DiCenzo, of Amherst, transported to the parade in his dark blue pickup truck. The truck’s lowered tailgate served as the food table.

Donning a green sport coat, green tie, a green plaid kilt and green leprechaun shoes he made himself, DiCenzo started the sofa tradition at last year’s parade. He plans to continue it for years to come, even adding more furniture like tables and chairs.

As one of his friends put it, pretty soon they’ll have a whole living room set.

Delaware Avenue and Virginia Street seemed like the hot spot to be. A sea of people congregated there, maybe because the porta-potties were located there. But when the bagpipe players went by dressed in kilts, the crowd whooped, hollered, jumped up and down and started dancing, which all startled 1-year-old Maeve Sullivan, who was attending her very first St. Patrick’s Parade and making the most of it.

She waved at the horses – one tan, the other black – as they nuzzled each other waiting to proceed. She waved – and tried to eat – her necklace of green beads. And she made faces when the firetrucks in the parade sounded their sirens as they passed by.

And by the time the third group of Irish dancers pranced by on their float, she was all smiles, and so was her father, Sean.

“We’ll be here every year,” he said. “This is how memories are made.”

By the end of the parade route at North Street, it seemed as if some of the paradegoers had a little too much fun.

Emergency medical technicians from Rural Metro were tending to a young man wearing a green sweatshirt, jeans and green beads around his neck. He was semi passed out in a nearby alley and was taken away in a stretcher.

“I don’t think he’s gonna make it to work tomorrow,” said the man’s friend, Kyle McCready.

Overall, Buffalo police reported a handful of arrests at the parade, mainly for disorderly conduct. Police also issued 40 summonses for violation of the open container law.