Today is St. Patrick's Day, but it's almost like a four-day celebration this year with activities going on thru Sunday.  Buffalo is so Irish we have two St. Patrick's Day parades.  Traditionally, the Old Neighborhood parade kicks things off on the Saturday closest to St. Patrick’s Day – starting at noon from the Valley Community Center.  It retraces the original 1913 parade route through the historic streets of the Valley and Old First Wards.  As one of the officials of the parade told me – the two neighborhoods were at one time split down religious lines.  One mainly Catholic – the other Protestant and the parade was a way of uniting the two neighborhoods in good will.  And everybody is traditionally invited to the big Hooley afterward at the Valley Center. 

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade didn’t have any floats or bands.  It was simply a group of proud Irish-Americans marching in celebration of their heritage.  In later years, others were invited to join – the only stipulation that they be Irish for the day.

The weather didn’t cooperate very well for that first Buffalo parade with 5-thousand marchers heading from the Elk Street Market Terminal to Euclid Place and back in sub-zero temperatures. 

Then there’s the big parade – originally down Main Street, then switched in 1981 to Delaware Avenue – always on the Sunday closest to St. Patrick’s Day where thousands turn out.    There were no parades during the World War Two years – 1942 to 1945.  It’s been held every year since – except once in 1997 when it was postponed a week after more than 18 inches of snow fell and there were wind chills of 30 below. 

This country’s oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade is in New York City.  It marched for the first time in 1762 – 16 years before the Declaration of Independence.  And it’s one of the few in which no cars, floats, buses, trucks or other vehicles are allowed.  It’s all about people – 150-thousand of them marching up Fifth Avenue from 42nd Street to 86th Street.