You know it's summer when the Red Cross paints the town red.
It happens every year around the beginning of June, when the white tent goes up in front of the Red Cross' Delaware Avenue headquarters, heralding the annual BASH. This year's BASH, which marks the party's 20th anniversary, takes place June 1.
There will be a special guest, "M*A*S*H" star Loretta Swit. The music is by the '80s band Nerds Gone Wild.
Just one thing is not perfect.
This BASH will be the last, the Red Cross' site confirms.
The detail was easy to miss. It was as if the BASH feared backlash. As well it might. If you went to this party, you have to hash over the BASH, wondering why it was being taken away.
What happened? Is it simply that 20 is plenty?
Or might the party be ending because of the sale of the Clement Mansion? The mansion at 786 Delaware Ave. has been home to the Red Cross since 1941, when the Clement family bequeathed it to the nonprofit organization.
Last fall, the building was purchased by developer John Yurtchuk, who arranged to split the premises between the Red Cross and the Crescendo Campaign for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Yurtchuk, who besides being involved with the Red Cross is a member of the BPO board, arranged for the orchestra to occupy part of the building and to lease the rest to the Red Cross.
That meant the Red Cross moving to the third floor, while the orchestra occupies the second floor. Did this arrangement somehow clash with the BASH?
Why is the party over?
"There's a number of reasons," said Jay Bonafede, spokesman for the Western New York Region of the American Red Cross.
"The biggest one is just to focus on a fundraiser that focuses a little more on the Red Cross mission, the services we provide. The tie-in with the show and the military was always loose from the beginning."
Practical considerations, Bonafede added, also come into play.
"To be honest, it's a very large undertaking. Through a lot of restructuring, we don't have the staff we used to have. It's a heavier lift, I have to say it, in terms of the time it takes, the personnel to do it. Twenty years is a long run for anything."
Bonafede said the sale of the mansion had nothing to do with the decision. He said that Yurtchuk, a former chairman of the regional Red Cross chapter, was devoted to the annual fundraiser and has been its most generous sponsor.
"It was actually in the contract of the sale to continue the BASH," Bonafede said.
Surely some event will replace the party? With its music, food and unique atmosphere, it ranks among Buffalo's best.
Dave Pietrowski, who runs the World's Largest Disco, acknowledged that in The Buffalo News as far back as 2007.
"Buffalo is a town that likes to do things that are different from any other town," Pietrowski said on that occasion. "We celebrate Dyngus Day. We idolize the chicken wing with the Chicken Wing festival, the BASH. These are just cool things that happen in Buffalo."
Bonafede said the Red Cross would be exploring other options. The only one he mentioned, though, was more sedate. It is possible, Bonafede said, the Red Cross would replace the BASH with a Real Heroes Breakfast.
"I don't know if that's the plan here. We do one in Syracuse, and in Binghamton," Bonafede said. "We're not honoring our people – we're honoring people who live the Red Cross mission, everyday heroes that have done something. I don't know if that's the plan, but we'll do something that ties into the mission a little bit more."
He paused for some nostalgia.
"I'll be honest, I'm sad to see it go away," Bonafede said. "This'll be my eighth one.
"I liked the way the community came together and just had a lot of fun. It's not just another dinner or gala. It draws a bit of a younger crowd. We have volunteers and supporters. While I didn't get to know him well, having Lance Diamond meant a lot. He was here for four or five of them."
The affection ran both ways, Bonafede reflected. "They thought enough to invite the Red Cross to be part of his memorial service at Kleinhans Music Hall."
Tickets are still available for the final Buffal BASH. They are $75 each, or two for $125. Bonafede offered advice for people hopping on the party train at its last stop.
"Make sure you get your best military gear – camo or other gear. Make sure you're dressed for the part," he said. "Come hungry. We've got a lot of great food."
Maybe you should also ask around, and see if you can find party-minded Buffalonians who will step up to the plate, and hold their own Red Cross BASH?
"That is definitely my hope," he said. "I hate to see it go away, because people love it."