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It's official: St. Patrick's Day parades in Buffalo canceled

Both of Buffalo's St. Patrick's Day parades were canceled in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Byron W. Brown said.

"This was a difficult decision for parade organizers," Brown said at a news conference in Niagara Square, flanked by organizers of the beloved parades who were wearing parade sashes.

The Old First Ward's parade was scheduled for Saturday and the downtown parade was slated to take place Sunday.

Multiple St. Patrick's Day parades around the country have already been canceled, including those in New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

"We are taking the proper precautions to protect the health of the community," Brown said.

Brown was joined by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz who said the decision was made to limit the spread of the disease. “Nobody wanted to do this,” Poloncarz said.

Officials in Erie County and the City of Buffalo are operating as though the virus is here, though there have been no confirmed cases, Poloncarz said.

He added that if conditions remain the same, the Dyngus Day Parade would be canceled as well.

The Buffalo Irish Center canceled its annual civic luncheon, which is a major event on the local political calendar and typically draws 650 people to the South Buffalo venue.

This year’s luncheon, the 49th in its history, was set for Friday as a kickoff to this weekend’s planned St. Patrick’s Day events.

“In consideration of the health of our community and based on recommendations made by federal, state and county health experts limiting large gatherings, we are choosing to act out of caution and cancel this nearly half-century tradition,” Mary C. Heneghan, the center’s chair, said in a statement.

In addition to drawing a who’s who of Buffalo-area pols, the luncheon is an important fundraiser for the center. Organizers asked people who planned to attend to consider making their ticket purchase a donation to the center.

Those requesting refunds or with further questions can contact irishluncheon@gmail.com.

The Irish Center will remain open.

The Buffalo Home Show which started last weekend and was scheduled for this weekend at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center was also canceled.

But that doesn't mean there won't be any revelry this weekend. A representative of the bars on West Chippewa Street and Delaware Avenue that are normally packed before, during and after the Sunday parade said they will be open for "business as usual" to celebrate the holiday. Most bars will open at noon and stay open throughout the day, said Tim Walton, assistant manager at VENU/Bottoms Up.

"St. Patrick's Day, is one of the busiest and days of the year for bars and many rely on the business to survive the slower months of the year," Walton said in an email.

And Thursday afternoon, organizers of the Old Neighborhood Parade announced that they have rescheduled the event – for Sept. 19.

"It's the halfway point to St. Patrick's Day," explained Lori Overdorf, one of the parade organizers.

A spokesman for the Conference and Event Center in Niagara Falls also announced Thursday that its 38th annual St. Patrick's Day celebration planned for Friday has been postponed to comply with recommended safety precautions being taken for the coronavirus pandemic.

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