The “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick's Day parade
How did it get started and why is it so popular?
The Old First Ward event is both similar to and different from Buffalo’s main parade.
PHOTO BY KC KRATT
Irish Pride is bountiful in Buffalo, as evidenced by its two separate and heavily populated St. Patrick’s Day parades.
The 27th annual “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins its march from the Valley Community Center at 93 Leddy Street at noon on Saturday, March 14. The following day, many of the floats featured in the Old Neighborhood parade appear for an encore at the downtown parade that runs up Delaware Avenue.
The Old Neighborhood parade, which runs through the Valley and Old First Ward communities, has a rich local history. Margaret “Peg” Overdorf founded the parade in 1994. As executive director of the Valley Community Association, Overdorf says she got the idea to start the parade after reading John Baldyga’s manuscript, Trip Around Buffalo’s Water Front and Life in the First Ward in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, which included stories about one of Buffalo’s first St. Patrick’s Day parades. In the early 1900s, the original parade began at the West Market Terminal, where the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino now stands, and wove through the streets of the Old First Ward and the Valley. Though the parade disappeared during the First and Second World Wars, it was revived in 1935, and eventually evolved into today’s Delaware Avenue procession.
Overdorf remembers wanting to revive this sense of Irish pride in her community, first discussing the idea with a group of friends one night at Leahy’s Bar. “Our neighborhood was well into a decline, because some of the plants and other facilities around here that employed people closed,” Overdorf says. “I wanted to bring some community pride back to the Old First Ward and the Valley communities.”
The first parade had only about twenty-five participants, but this year 100 units are expected, comprising bands, floats, and Irish dancers, among other social groups.
The route goes down South Street and passes Mutual Riverfront Park and Buffalo Riverfest Park, finishing at South Street and Louisiana Street. All proceeds benefit the programs of the Valley Community Center.