A strange assortment of things rained down on spectators lined up Monday for the annual Dyngus Day Parade.
In addition to occasional bursts of snow and hail, the curbside revelers were treated to sprays of cold water from large super soakers and requisite tosses of beads and hard candy. Even Polish sausage was thrown at them from a couple of floats.
Of course, randomness has always been a mainstay of the post-Lenten spectacle that annually draws tens of thousands to Buffalo’s East Side to celebrate spring and display pride in their Polish heritage.
“This is crazy, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Donna Klimczak of Lexington, Ky., a novice when it comes to Buffalo’s Dyngus Day activities. She was on hand for the merriment with her daughter and son-in-law, Jamie and Ben Plessinger of Amherst.
“We got exposed to a little bit of everything,” said Klimczak, as she watched the last float of the parade roll down Fillmore Avenue. “Now we’re going to go eat some Polish food.”
Marty Biniasz, co-founder of Dyngus Day Buffalo, estimated that close to 75 floats made up this year’s parade, which started in front of Corpus Christi Catholic Church at Clark and Kent streets before traveling along Broadway to Fillmore, along Peckham Street and on to to Memorial Drive and the Central Terminal.
“This is supposed to be a celebration of spring, but as we stand here in front of Corpus Christi and the snow is coming down, we’ve got a way to go for spring,” said Biniasz.
The weather wasn’t the only slow-thaw event at Monday’s parade. The area’s frosty response to CNN anchorman Anderson Cooper’s perceived slight after last year’s celebration continued to resonate throughout the parade.
There was a fleet of Mini Coopers – get it? — in the parade, as well as one dangling from the clock at the Central Terminal. The parade also included a contingent of marchers with Anderson Cooper masks and others chanting, “Cooper is a pooper.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., joined locally elected representatives in the parade, including Mayor Byron W, Brown and Assemblymen Dennis H. Gabryszak and Michael P. Kearns,
“Schumer, thinking he was a funny guy, spread a rumor on Twitter that Jimmy Fallon was going to be here,” said Biniasz, who added, “It’s a fallacy that Fallon was going to be here. Maybe next year.”
First-timers were at Monday’s event, including Justin McGraw and Jessica Janish of Lancaster. “I’m half-Polish, and she’s half-Polish, as well. Our moms’ sides are 100 percent, so we had to get down here and experience it,” McGraw said.
Susan Kostrezwski Berner of Cheektowaga, who attended with friends, was another first-timer. “We have the pass for the first-timers,” said Berner, referring to the wrist tag that allowed her discount entry to various other Dyngus Day events.
“We’re just here to experience it and wish that it wasn’t snowing,” Berner said.
Earlier Monday, the day officially began with the Bloody Mary Polka Breakfast in Polish Villa II, 1085 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga. Music was provided by the Al Krew Review.
Churches played a huge role in the Dyngus Day events:
• An 11:30 a.m. Mass was offered in Corpus Christi Church, 199 Clark St. Built at a cost of $100.000, the landmark structure, constructed of Medina sandstone, was dedicated in 1909. Tours of the historic church began at 1 p.m.
• From 12:30 to 5 p.m., the Corpus Christi social hall opened its door for a pre-parade party with music by DJ Red & White and entertainment from Harmony Folk Dancers. Many took advantage of open bowling at the social hall’s lanes.
• At 11:30 a.m. inside St. Casimir’s Social Center, 160 Cable St., families gathered for an old-fashioned egg roll, similar to the higher-profile White House version. Kaisertown’s version featured dancing, music, food and crafts.
Presiding over the festivities was the Rev. Czeslaus Krysa, rector at St. Casimir’s Oratory. Born in Niagara Falls, Krysa interpreted the Polish customs for the dozens of children who were rolling, cracking or coloring eggs. Soon, the children paraded through the neighborhood holding pussy willows topped with handmade paper eggs. Teen girls wearing Polish floral wreaths - like halos on the their heads - marched along with the children.
Meanwhile, Buffalo’s Best Kielbasa Contest ran from noon to 2 p.m. in Adam Mickiewicz Library & Dramatic Circle, 612 Fillmore. The contest, attracting Polish beer connoisseurs and kielbasa foodies, featured a beer-tasting bar, a smorgasbord of sandwich toppings and 13 different kielbasa entries.
Manning a slow cooker of sauerkraut was Sophie Baj, who made 15 pounds of the hearty cabbage dish, cooking it for four days. “It’s like soup or chili or fine wine. It gets better with age.” said Baj. The People’s Choice Kielbasa Award went to a family of sausage makers from West Seneca. The Kasprzaks including Stan, Tom, Tim and Bill Kasprzak credited their grandfather’s recipe for their winning effort.
“After the death of their grandfather, it took the family five years to perfect the recipe based on Grandma Kasprzak’s taste buds,” explained Colleen Mulvaney, co-chairwoman of the event with Aniela Baj, Sophie’s daughter.
Interestingly, the bar room of the Adam Mickiewicz Library – called “Mickey’s” by its 200 members – was on the receiving end of the 132-case delivery of the Polish beer, Zywiec. Coolers were stocked tight with row after row of the colorful frosty bottles. Of note were the white commemorative mugs included in the $10 admission fee at the Fillmore Avenue social center. The mugs turned red when filled with cold beer.
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