Friday, April 12, 2013

Buffalo Easter/Dyngus Day

Me with Valerie
I must say that I should've posted this blog entry long ago, yet I composed about half of the post and somehow, magically, I lost all of my work.  I was so frustrated that I needed to walk away from my computer, otherwise it would become part of my family room's wall art.  And so here I am again.....take two.

Tammy, Jenna, Tanya, Madeline & me at Broadway Market
Nothing better than being a Polish gal at Easter time in Buffalo! Of course the best time to be in Buffalo is the summer (David and I both agree that Buffalo would be a great "snow bird" summer city), Easter time ranks up there with one of my favorite times to be in Buffalo.  The ethnicity of the city shines through in numerous events throughout the year, and for the Polish, Easter is the time to be in Buffalo.  Throw in the festivities of Dyngus Day and Buffalo Easters rock (in short, one may compare Dyngus Day to Mardi Gras....except on the opposite side of Lent. For more information on what Dyngus Day is, click HERE)

Last year (our first Easter/Dyngus Day in Minnesota) I was scurrying around, trying to recreate our own regular traditions.  I actually succeeded in finding half way decent kielbasa (but definitely not Redlinski's), however despite talking to shop owners of a local Polish market as well as a parish priest of a local Polish church, no one seemed to know what Dyngus Day was.  David and I would've been happy to attend a small Dyngus Day polka dance in a tiny parish church hall, yet no such thing existed.  This year, David took matters into his own hands and suggested that we travel to Buffalo for Easter and Dyngus Day.  Certainly I jumped at the opportunity!

Tammy surprised me with this AWESOME sponge candy ornament
Thankfully, Madeline had a few days off of school at Easter time and so we were able to plan our Buffalo trip around Madeline's break. We flew out of MSP late in the evening on Thursday (3/28). Our flight was a
Jonathan getting a balloon animal at the Broadway Market
quick non-stop trip, yet, since we departed Minnesota late in the day, our arrival in Buffalo was late.  Therefore, our Thursday night revolved around getting us and the kids settled for the night.  I must mention that I am beyond grateful for our accommodations once we arrived in Buffalo.  Speaking
Madeline's balloon animal
of "snow birds", my friend, Kelly's dad is a snow bird and was still in Florida at the time of our visit.  He did, however, offer his house up to us during our visit.  Certainly we accepted his generous offer, but the total added bonus is that Kelly lives only a few doors away from her dad.  As a result, I had extra visiting time with Kelly in the evenings.

Friday (3/29) was
Easter Man?!? What on earth??
absolutely jammed packed with activity....what an awesome way to vacation!  Our first stop was to meet up with a friend, Valerie.  Valerie's dad, Daniel, and my dad were best friends.  Our dads were two extremely intelligent men with a weakness for pulling off a good prank or two.  Their sense of humors were such that the two of them really and truly fed off of each other
Being Polish - at the Broadway Market
and yet, in many situations, you had to be "in the know" that these two jokesters were up to no good as they could pull off their antics with a completely straight face.  For those of you that are familiar with how David and our friend, Jon, interact, I would compare my dad and Daniel to David & Jon on steroids.  Over the years, our two families were intertwined yet, Valerie was off and married
Madeline & Jonathan - Buffalo Naval Park
when I was just a pre-teen girl.  Although we met, it was many, many, many years ago.  Through the wonders of Facebook, all of my siblings and I have reconnected with Valerie.  In many ways, Valerie and I think alike and we joke that she is my long lost "sista".  By coincidence, Valerie was also on her own pilgrimage to Buffalo and the end of her trip coincided with the beginning of our own
Michellynn & Madeline - fish fry attempt # 1 (Wiechec's). These girl are looking wayyy too comfortable in a bar!
trip.  I was lucky enough to once again meet Valerie.  Although I was probably slightly older than Madeline the last time I saw Valerie, I feel as though I was reuniting with one of my girlfriends.  It was such a nice visit and it was also great to meet Valerie's husband, Carl, and her high school pal, Karen.  What a wonderful way to start our Buffalo vacation!

Michellynn & Madeline - Fish fry attempt #2 (Deerhead)
After our coffee date with Valerie, David, the kids & I headed to the office where David used to work.  After eight years with
Kym, me & Mary - ready for our McDonald's play date
this organization, it felt like a homecoming.  The office where David used to work was somewhat small.  Through the help of numerous summer picnics, Christmas parties, business functions, weddings, etc, visiting David's former co-workers felt like visiting family.  What a wonderful, wonderful group of people!

Madeline, Michellynn & Dani
Our next stop was the Broadway Market.  Yep, Broadway Market on Good Friday equals insanity.  However,
Christian and Jonathan (accessorizing with black eye!)
the crowds that we may have avoided if we lived in Buffalo, we actually enjoyed as visitors.  We met up with my friend,
Waiting for lunch - Dani, Michellynn & Madeline
Tammy, and her two daughters, Jenna and Tanya.  Lucky for me, it was lunch time and so we decided to wait for a table at the
All the kids - Christian, Jack, Jonathan, Dani, Michellynn & Madeline (Mike & Kym in back)
market's small diner. is where I was naughty.  Good Friday is supposed to be meat-free.  Well.....temptation got the best of me and, for lunch, I indulged in the Polish food that are not readily available in Minnesota.  Madeline and I shared the Polish platter - kielbasa, golumbki, pierogi, kapusta - yum!  Traditionally, before Easter, the Broadway Market is swarming with people getting items in preparation for their Easter celebration - kielbasa, ham, fresh prepared horseradish, butter lambs, pastries, etc.  When living in Buffalo I had my own list of "must haves" to purchase, however, since we had Easter plans my typical purchases were not made.  Yet, I still purchased a few items. Each year, I buy pysanky (wooden Polish Easter eggs) for the kids.  I was able to add to the kids' collection of the pysanky.  Additionally, I bought a few bundles of pussy willows to bring home as well as a "Live, Love, Polka" t-shirt.  Needless to say, while at the market, we also had the kids participate in some kids activities such as a visit with the Easter bunny and  a stop for a clown making balloon animals.

Madeline and Jack storytelling
For the evening, we made plans to meet up with my friend, Mary, her husband, Mike, and their two kids,
David helping Jonathan with egg roll
Michellynn and Christian, to enjoy in a good ole Buffalo fish fry.  We had a little extra time on our hands before meeting Mary and her family and so David and I decided to let the kids blow off some steam.  We took a ride to the Buffalo waterfront and walked through the Naval Park and Canalside.  Shortly after that we met up for our fish fry dinner.  If you are not familiar with a Buffalo fish fry,
Ready, set, go! Girls ready for egg roll
they are pretty much the size of a whale.  Fridays during Lent are always very busy at fish fry locations and so, on Good
All the kiddos with the Easter bunny
Friday, we anticipated a long wait, however, a two hour wait for a table was a bit more than we were willing to endure with two hungry and tired kids at our favorite Buffalo gin mill, Weichec's.  We decided to head down the road to the Deerhead restaurant - not quite what we had hoped and planed for, but still an okay fish fry with less wait.

David & Mary helping with craft time for Madeline, Michellynn, Olivia & Dani
After a completely FULL Friday, we headed back up to Lewiston to put our exhausted children to bed.  Kelly and her husband, Pat, headed down the street that evening and a trip to Kelly's dad's hot tub and time to chat with Kelly and Pat was a very welcomed, relaxing end to a very busy day.

Crazy spinning on the carousell
Saturday (3/30) was a day that we had set aside to not only spend time with my MOMS Club friends but to, in particular, allow
MOMS Club gals and kids
Madeline the opportunity to visit with her friends.  I just am not sure who enjoyed this more - Madeline or me.  We started out our day by meeting up at a McDonald's with a play place.  David, me & the kids joined by my friends Kym (with her two - Jack & Dani) and Mary & Mike (with their two - Michellynn & Christian). The six children enjoyed taking over the Play place and rekindling their friendships. 
Jonathan found his Easter basket
Yep, this is how we rolled when we were members of our MOMS Club - enjoying each other's company as the kids played (of
Madeline found her basket too
course, interspersed with occasional "Hey, stop that!" "No running" "Be gentle"...etc)  After the kids got a full dose of play, we took a lunch break - a round of Happy Meals.  After lunch we took our "three ring circus" on the road and headed over to the Herschell Carousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda.  Despite having lived in North Tonawanda prior to our relocation, I had never
Goodies from the Easter bunny
been to the carousel factory before.  What a cute Easter program they had organized for the kids! When we arrived,
Happy Easter
there was an interactive story time going on.  Children from the audience were chosen to participate and act out characters in the story.  Both my friend Kym's son, Jack, and Madeline were participants.  After story time, the kids enjoyed  the Easter egg roll and meeting the Easter bunny.  Although the Easter bunny's costume (as my friend, Mary, so eloquently put it) looked as though it was dragged out of a 1970's janitor closet, the kids didn't seem to mind.  There were also a number games and craft stations.  The kids were also able to have unlimited carousel rides on the two carousels.  "That 70's Bunny" even rode with the kids.  What I anticipated to be an hour of activities for the kids turned out to be an all day affair.  None of us seemed to mind as the adults were enjoying each other's company and the kids were having an absolute ball.

Chatting it up with Uncle Tom & Aunt Sue
Saturday evening we arranged with one of our former NY babysitters to watch the kids so that David and I could have a NY date night.  We weren't really sure what we were going to do but I was completely convinced that we would make it a late night.  David and I tried a new restaurant in Niagara Falls, NY - the culinary institutes's Savor Restaurant.  Both David and I were very, very impressed with our
Noah, Madeline & Jonathan after egg hunt at Aunt Sue's
dinner.  I guess David and I must be getting old as our hectic weekend was catching up to us.  Despite having a sitter lined up, we headed back after dinner and we were back by around 11pm.  Regardless, it was a nice, quiet  evening out as a date night.

Trying to keep warm at the Dyngus Day parade
Sunday morning was Easter (3/31).  I explained to Madeline before we left Minnesota that I had emailed the Easter bunny so that he knew we would be in New York.  Morning came....and so did the annual early morning sugar rush!  We ended up going to our former parish church for mass.  I can't even tell you how nice it was to be in our former church.  David and I have been dragging our feet in joining a Minnesota church because we aren't crazy about the local parishes here, yet we were both more than thrilled to attend mass at our old church.  After mass, we headed to my (paternal) Aunt Sue & Uncle Ron's house.  Growing up, Aunt Sue was the house that typically hosted parties on my dad's side of the family.  I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas Eve and other occasions at their house.  Aunt Sue always goes out of her way to be such a wonderful hostess.....and of course, this Easter was no different.  I was so thrilled to visit with not only my Aunt Sue & Uncle Ron, but also my Uncle Tom & Aunt Marygrace.  Additionally, I was able to catch up with my cousins Luke, Malina (& Malina's husband, Eric) Kellie, Julie, Jim (& Jim's wife, Kaye).  I was also able to meet Malina's son Noah.  Noah is such a cutie! Jonathan is 7 months older than Noah, so it was fun to see the two boys interacting.  Lately, I feel bad about such get togethers because visiting with kids in tow tends to cause choppy conversations (on my part) and disrupted meals, however I enjoyed every second of our Easter together.  Aunt Sue was her typical hostess with the mostess and, as usual, she put out such a food (and drink) spread - appetizers, plentiful swienconka (Polish Easter) complete with Polish sausage home made by my Aunt Sue & Uncle Tom and enough homemade baked goods to stock a bakery!  In addition spoiling us with Polish cuisine, leave it Aunt Sue to also spoil the kiddos by planning an Easter egg hunt!  I could not have asked for a better Easter!!  After returning to Lewiston in the evening, my friend Kelly and her daughter, Hailey, stopped by for a dip in her dad's hot tub - what a perfect, relaxing way to cap off the day.

David and Tammy - two people that aren't crazy about dancing, but somehow we captured the moment! Hey - looks like they might be enjoying it!
Monday (4/1) was Dyngus Day.  Although a majority of the festivities are in the evening, there are a few places that open up their doors earlier in the afternoon for some family fun activities.  We decided to head over to one of those locales (Corpus Christi Church) earlier in the day, prior to the Dyngus Day parade.  However, earlier in the morning, David and I did some "Buffalo wandering".  We indulged in a Buffalo "must have" - a Beef on Weck at Charlie the Butcher.  Afterward, we took the kids to blow off some steam at the play area in the Boulevard Mall.  Not quite the amusement park of the Mall of America, but this is something that  Madeline had asked to do while we were in town.  The kids ran like monkeys and then capped off their time at the mall by riding the carousel.  Next, we headed to Corpus Christi for the pre-parade festivities. My friend, Mary, and her two kids, Michellynn and Christian met us there. The church hall was very "old school" which was pretty neat.  It had bowling alleys that were open (although long wait list) and a polka DJ. The gym was open for the kids to run around and there was an appearance (although very crammed into a small room) of the Polish Heritage dancers.  Note to future self, although it was nice to be able to walk to parade route, next time go back to Polish Falcons in Depew for afternoon.

Some of my Dyngus buddies - Kym, Mary, me, Tammy & Kelly
We took a walk over to the parade route and, as usual, the parade did not disappoint with its silly floats.  Despite it being very cold and snowy, we all had a fun time.  In addition to Mary & her two kids, Tammy and her two daughters, Jenna and Tanya, met us for the parade.  Madeline and Michellynn had an absolute blast catching the candy and bead necklaces thrown from the float.  Mary and I had fun "photo bombing" a live news cast interview (CLICK HERE to see clip on YouTube).  In addition to typical items thrown from parade floats, they were even throwing kielbasa and butter lambs off the floats. Crazy!

After the parade, the kids needed to get home.  We had arranged with our other NY sitter to watch the kids that night.  David isn't quite the dancing enthusiast as I am so he decided that he would drop me off at the Millennium hotel, where we planned to Dyngus in the evening. This way, I could meet up with friends and break out my dancing shoes until David arrived later (after getting the kids settled with the sitter).   Meeting us to Dyngus were my friends Kelly, Kelly's husband Pat, Tammy, Mary, Kym, Mike (aka "Polka Mike"), Paul & Michele.  It was also nice to, by chance, run into some other friends that I knew (Jody, Larry, Peter and an older couple that used to be in Polka Club with my mom....can't remember their name).  I grew up listening to polka music and so the polka beat is in my blood......heck, music and dancing in general is!  Many of my friends have never participated in Dyngus Day (or polkaing for that matter) and so I believe they equally enjoyed the people watching aspect of the evening. I must say that, for many of my friends Dyngus isn't "their thing",  yet I love my friends for humoring me and tagging along with me for a night of polka madness.

On Tuesday, (4/2) we headed back to Minnesota.  We pretty much had every second of our time filled with visits and fun while in Buffalo.  Despite becoming more comfortable with Minnesota, Buffalo will always be home to me. I am blessed to have such wonderful friends and family there!  Buffalo....I will be back in June :-) Can't wait!

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