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No place like home for holidays 200 at Hertel party celebrate Buffalo roots

Marti Gorman bad-mouthed Buffalo on three continents, in three languages, for three decades. But now she's back to stay.

Gorman talked about her 30-year disappearance and reappearance during a "Happy to Be (Back) Home for the Holidays" party Wednesday evening at the Sidebar on Hertel Avenue. The event, which drew nearly 200 expatriates and repatriates, was sponsored by Buffalo Old Home Week, which she co-chairs.

"I was so upset with Buffalo," said Gorman, 53. "I left Buffalo after earning three college degrees and I spent six years in Bogota, Colombia. I covered Latin American for the Atlanta Constitution. Then I freelanced out of Boulder, Colo. Along the way I had a sabbatical in Germany."

Still, she managed to name her daughter Starin, after the avenue honoring the family of Gorman's grandmother.

"Yeah, I had roots here," she said. "I hated Buffalo -- but what I really hated was my life at the time. When I came back [in 2005] I realized Buffalo has a bigger sense of community than any place I'd ever been. And I wished I'd raised my children here. My daughter said, 'Mom, this place rocks. Why'd you ever leave?' "

Gorman is co-founder of Buffalo Heritage Press Unlimited, which just came out with "Garden Walk Buffalo" and "Oakland Place." Her investment sets an example for others to come back and start businesses.

Christopher M. Smith, 32, her co-chairman, manages the business end of Buffalo Old Home Week and is a keen observer of new business start-ups.

"As far as I'm concerned, Bass Pro is a $60 million bait shop," he said of the foundering proposal for the foot of Main Street. "It's symbolic of the old Buffalo -- the big promises. I'd rather see something like the new Get Dressed Buffalo shop that Michael Attardo opened on Main Street."

Smith, a graduate of St. Francis High School and Fredonia State College, returned to Buffalo in 2004 after a decade's absence. He's lived in Louisiana, Massachusetts and Illinois.

"We have a sense of place and a sense of community that I didn't find elsewhere," he said. "People care as much for their neighborhoods as they care for themselves. In Chicago, they're caught up in the daily hustle-bustle of life instead of the daily celebration of life that we have in Buffalo."?

A microsystems engineer, Smith had only professional acquaintances in Chicago. And the people he hangs with in Buffalo aren't old school chums -- they're people he has met since his return.

"You can break in here," he said, "if you're willing to step out -- instead of bemoaning and waiting for government to deliver on its promises."

Jessica Biegaj, 30, a master's candidate and graduate assistant at the University at Buffalo, returned last year after living for five years on Long Island while working at the Stony Brook University.

"There's no culture or community on Long Island," she said. "Just a lot of traffic."

Biegaj is on the steering committee of Buffalo Home Week, whose annual event was held Aug. 24-27 and will be repeated next year on July 1-8.

"Thousands of people attended our activities all over Buffalo," she said. "Next year is Buffalo's 175th birthday. We'll do a downtown housing tour again, and we'll have the career fair and lots more."


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