Mother Nature almost brought her squirt guns to Dyngus Day.
But steady rain Monday dissipated by late afternoon when the parade marking the annual post-Lenten holiday kicked off from Clark and Kent streets on Buffalo’s East Side.
The flirty tools of pussy willow branches and squirt guns were plentiful, while sunshine was hidden behind grey clouds but otherwise dry conditions.
“We never worry about the weather,” said Nancy McCarthy, vice president and creative director of Dyngus Day Buffalo. “You can’t control the weather. We work on the fly. Stuff happens. We address the situation and we move forward. We’re warriors.”
Along the parade route, volunteer Ted Cwudinski splashed off rainwater that had collected on the large tent in the parking lot at the Adam Mickiewicz Library on Fillmore Avenue, one of many sites throughout Buffalo where Polish pride was celebrated all day.
“Better than a squirt gun,” said one of the revelers lined up for entrance to the library’s party, which had heat lamps, homemade pierogi and plenty of krupnik, despite a shortage of the Poland-made honey liqueur.
“We had some in inventory and we always stock up,” said library volunteer Bob Sienkiewicz. “We were able to get as much of it as we wanted. You just have to know how to do it with your connections.”
Sienkiewicz also wasn’t concerned about the weather.
“It’s kind of ironic that last year we had one of the worst winters but we had one of the warmest Dyngus Days and this year we had one of the mildest winters and not a very hospitable weather day,” he said. “As long as it’s not raining, it’ll be fine. You get a little krupnik in you, you warm right up.”
Outside, Ron Dombrowski broadcast live on WXRL radio during his “drive time polka show” and Kenny Hemming and his wife, M.J., staked out a spot to watch the parade.
Hemming was wearing a “97 cent poncho” over the red $30 sweatshirt he bought from Pasteurized Tees across the street. The sweatshirt was emblazoned with Buffalo’s area code – 716 – and a Polish falcon. The couple traveled from their home in Louisville, Ky., for their second Dyngus Day, although Hemming’s mother was born and raised in Buffalo.
“Buffalo means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s a neat place. My mom would be very happy that I was here.”
Hemming said they were drawn to the event by his cousin Aniela Thant, organizer of Buffalo’s Best Kielbasa Contest, which was held earlier Monday at the Broadway Market. The Deli Shoppe emerged victorious in five of the contest’s 10 categories including Best Overall Commercial, Best Fresh Commercial and Best Fresh Holiday Commercial.
Further south on Fillmore at Paderewski Drive, the Rev. Mariusz Dymek, pastor of St. Stanislaus church, marveled at the excitement as the parade passed by.
“It is a place and a moment when everybody can meet at all the places on the East Side — different corners of East Side,” said Dymek, a native of Poland. “It is something good to have in Buffalo.”
At Fillmore and Peckham Street where the parade turned to head east on Peckham toward the Central Terminal, the Polish Heritage Dancers passed by a large crowd that had spilled out from St. Stan’s social hall and Ironworkers Local 6 members handed out pussy willow branches.
The Zier family of West Seneca returned squirt gun blasts from revelers on parade floats with blasts from their own arsenal of eight water guns.
“We’re cold but we’re having fun,” said Allie Zier, 13.
The family-friendly parade wrapped up at the Memorial Drive traffic circle in front of the terminal, and the revelry continued well into the night at the nearby Pussy Willow Park party tent.
“I think it’s more family-oriented,” said Chris Galas. “I don’t do a lot of parades but there’s something about this. You see a lot of 4-year-olds, 8-year-olds, moms and dads. Then there’s a younger generation over here.”
He and his friends had a memorable moment earlier at St. Stan’s:
“The priest blessed our beers. He came up to us and did one of these,” Galas said, making a sign of the cross, “blessed our beers and said, ‘Drink up,’ which is a good story between friends.”