Totally Buffalo Festival Kicks Off Summer
Mary Friona-Celani is a former Channel 2 news anchor, mom to four daughters ages two to twenty-one, creator of totallybuffalo.com, a website devoted to boosting Buffalo and celebrating the region, and planner-in-chief of the inaugural Totally Buffalo Festival (May 27, noon to 9 p.m. at Buffalo Riverworks). So, she’s pretty busy—and she likes it that way.
Friona-Celani Left Channel 2 when she was pregnant with her fourth daughter. “When she turned one, I started thinking about what I could do from home that would be interesting and fun, but also rewarding,” she says.
How she came up with the name of the site is a cute story. “My daughter, Emma, who’s five, whenever she’s really serious about something, she puts the word ‘totally’ in front of it. Like, ‘Mom, we should totally play Barbies. We totally need to go the library.’ I figured, if we’re serious about this, it should be ‘Totally Buffalo.’”
Many story ideas on the site come from her Facebook friends and followers. After leaving Chanel 2, she debated on whether to keep her professional page. Her husband said, “You never know when you’re going to want to interact with the fans you’ve created in the twenty years of working at Channel 2.” She’s really glad she did. She’s kept in touch and shared baby pics and family stories. “It’s kept me active and in the social media world. “They’re the ones giving me great ideas and sending me in different directions to try to find big stories about people in Buffalo—which is not hard; they are everywhere.”
Mary Friona-Celani (far right) with her husband and four daughters.
Spree: The website is really robust; there’s a lot of content. Do you write everything yourself or do you have writers?
Mary Friona-Celani: I wish! I’ve always been sort of fast. I move at a very quick rate, which drives my husband crazy. I usually do the research during the day when I have spare time. I write late at night when the girls are sleeping or before they get up in the morning, depending on what kind of day it is—do I feel like getting out of bed early or staying up late?
Spree: How would you ideally like people to use the site?
MFC: I feel like there’s a lot of negative news, bad news, violence—and I’m not saying we should put our heads in the sand and not think about anything bad, that’s not realistic. But, I do feel that we need a balance. When you go on Facebook or turn on the news, you see all this negative stuff going on. Maybe take a break from that and go to totallybuffalo.com and say, “Look at this! This is a great story about a teenager who’s doing something amazing.” Maybe inspire yourself to do something to think outside of the box. Maybe there’s a link on there of a way that you can help somebody who need help. It just might make you feel better, too. Everybody wants to help, but it’s not that easy to find a cause.
Spree: There are other “good news” websites, but this is hyper local, so you can really see the impact of your service.
MFC: There are so many great Buffalo blogs—I’m part of the Buffalo bloggers network. Many of them seem to be about fashion and what to do in Buffalo and are a little more specific. Totallybuffalo.com has a little bit of everything on there. Sometimes we’ll post something that’s going on in your neighborhood that will be fun for your kids. Sometimes the stuff we post gets picked up by the local media stations. For instance, I did a story about a little boy who was very sick and needed a liver transplant. And his aunt ended up donating part of her liver to him. I got that from a Facebook follower.
After we did the story, Channels 2 and Channel 7 did. It helped get the word out about organ donation, which is the whole purpose of that story, and remind you of the importance of family, who you can always really count on. It’s actually stuff that can really make a difference in our community.
Now I sit and think, people are changing the world, and they need somebody to help get the word out.
Spree: That’s such rewarding work, telling the stories of people who do make a difference in the world.
MFC: I like my girls to see this sort of stuff, too. Hey, look: this is a blueprint for how you should live your life. Give back. Take action on things. Make a difference. As a mom, it’s kind of a no-brainer.
About the "Totally Buffalo Festival"
Mary describes the impetus for the festival:
“I wanted to have a festival at the beginning of summer that really celebrates everything about Buffalo—the food, the wine, the craft beer makers, everything. Now we have eighty-five vendors and a waiting list.
We have six bands. They’re all local, incredible musicians in all different genres. We have a blues band; we have a Latin band. We try to cover every part of the city. We have East Side barbecue, we have roast beef on weck from Eckl’s in the southtowns. We really tried to be inclusive. We have a kids zone from Roly-Poly, a well-established business here that will provide stuff for kids to do; face painting, an interactive sports zone. It’s going to be so much fun.
It’s May 27, Memorial Day weekend, so it will be a kind of kickoff for the festival season in Buffalo, which really means a lot to us; my husband and I are both born and raised here. We love this area, and so we’re doing something to celebrate it.
Part of the proceeds will go to Carly’s Club. At Channel 2 I did so many stories on kids with cancer, and they always help these families. And Special Spaces—an amazing local charity—they makeover bedrooms for sick kids to make it their dream bedroom, and it’s all volunteer.”
Totally Buffalo Festival
May 27, 2017
Noon to 9 p.m.