Tag Archives: Turkey Trot

Missed Marketing Opportunities

30 Nov

Buffalo is the Beirut of New York State – even hapless Governor Paterson thinks we fight too much over ever-smaller crumbs. Or perhaps Buffalo is the Palestine of New York State: to paraphrase the famous quote, we never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Exhibit A is the obvious opportunity unrealized. Professional busybodies and baby-boomer obstructionists, reliving their protesting youth by finding a new Man to rail against (read: ECHDC board), are currently impeding the Canal Side construction and have won yet another “pause” in waterfront development, the latest in a fifty year string of pauses.  The plan is already significantly behind schedule, the latest published date (now 18 months old) for life at the water being May 2011. I trust the pause seekers are vindictive enough to realize that ECHDC board member, Buffalo Sabres Managing Partner, and regular foil Larry Quinn is actually planning two events on the waterfront – one the construction at Canal Side, the other the World Junior Hockey Tournament in December and January. The irony that may be lost on the true believing obstructiontariant, however, is that while they are blunting the potential impact of a $100 million international event, they are selling their soul for their own $2.5 million preservation conference in October. How does someone walk out of a Save the Statler event, that offered a Faustian bargain simply to make the landmark look good for a week long convention, and (metaphorically) walk to a protest by a movement that has ensured a giant hole in the ground when the hockey world and international spotlight comes to Buffalo. Never let this group claim the city love high moral ground again – if boosting Buffalo was the goal, we’d have more than lame catering at 95 Perry Street for the crowds that will fill our city for five weeks. As it is, Swedes, Germans, Slovakians, Canadians and tens of thousands of others will navigate around the giant rusting concrete holes, on their way to the arena and back to Pearl Street and the hopping, expansive, dense Cobblestone District. . . of 2 bars.

Image courtesy Buffalo News

Exhibit B is more insidious, and, to me, more frustrating – the potential opportunity required imagination. Last Thursday morning I stood on Delaware Avenue surrounded by more significantly more people than attend the Darwin Martin House yearly. 12,500 people paid over thirty bucks each to run five miles in the cold and rain.

We must be on to something. Which made me wonder, why hasn’t Buffalo cornered the market on Thanksgiving?

In the 21st Century, and our increasingly mobile culture grasping for entertainment and authenticity, Thanksgiving has come to be defined by three (oft-competing) themes: Home, Partying, and Shopping. The last is obvious, ubiquitous, well planned to attract Canadians, and receives so much attention it probably doesn’t need any help. So instead let’s look at the first two.

Everyone wants to go Home on Thanksgiving, but many would probably not prefer their actual abode. Its the ideal nostalgic Home they want to travel to, not Scottsdale or Tampa Bay. Buffalo has the river and woods to go over and through, the potential for snow, the old world charm, and the ethnic background. Germany’s Christmas Markets attract tourists from all over Europe and North America – we have the legitimate immigrants, neighborhoods, history and cultural roots to pull off the same thing here. You can already get some of the best German, Polish and Eastern European food in the country here – marry it with the right space, artists, and knick knacks. And for those still seeking traditional turkey, our restaurants do a fine job Thanksgiving day. This is not a trifle to be overlooked. I was once stuck in Birmingham, Alabama on Thanksgiving, and tried to take my new wife out for a nice dinner. After driving around the city for hours, simply looking for an open restaurant, we settled at Piccadilly’s Cafeteria for cubed lunchmeat in safety yellow gravy.

The second, growing theme of Thanksgiving is the four and a half day Party. The biggest bar night of the year nationally is the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, and it’s my bet college students and young adults would travel to a great party if they knew one was being thrown. Here Buffalo could win hand over fist, as the events are already in place, and little salesmanship is all that’s needed. We have a lot of strengths that line up in our favor if we mentally package them: a large expat population already coming up over the long weekend, 4 am bar times, party and entertainment districts, two professional sports teams, the Turkey Trot, and the World’s Largest Disco.  It’s like all the fun of Buffalo Homecoming on the weekend it already happens anyway and without the career fairs.

Imagine this weekend that was just possible in Buffalo: Sabres game versus the Pens Wednesday night, hit the bar til four, three hours sleep, then run the Turkey Trot where free beer awaits you at the finish line. Grab a good meal Thursday night, then Sabres/Maple Leafs Friday, World’s Largest Disco Saturday, and the Bills game (complete with the best tailgating in the league) on Sunday. The Sabres and Bills can work to ensure home game Thanksgiving weekend, and the other events are already traditions.  If we want to attract tourists and their outside dollars, I like the disposal income and reckless spending habits of young adults most of all. And as we have been saying at WNYMedia, we’d be happy if Buffalo was known nationally as just a fun place to be. Why go home to your boring parent’s house – Thanksgiving is the new spring break, and Buffalo has the new Mardi Gras. It starts with expat college kids bringing their friends, and it grows from there.  

Buffalo needs to sell itself on Thanksgiving a la another commandeered holiday. Everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day, and in Buffalo, everyone is Home on Thanksgiving.

Escape the Urban: The Joy of the Run

14 Nov

Buffalo often feels like the smallest big town around. Yes, on paper, there are 1.2 million souls in the metro area. But that can’t possibly be actual fact – if so many people lived here, how is it I see the same faces everywhere I go? How is it there are not six degrees of separation, but famously two, between the butcher at the Broadway Market and a school teacher in Tonawanda? One acquaintance of mine I met five different independent ways. If there are really over a million people in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, then where are they all hiding?

One answer, I had the recent misfortune to discover, is the Galleria Mall. Turns out you can’t get a parking spot or a table for dinner on random weekends in October, not just at Christmas time. And if that is a sad commentary on the state of our consumerist society, then my second answer you should find far more uplifting and hopeful – they are all out running.

Courtesy Buffalo News

I consider myself an aspiring runner, a regular amateur, a passable athlete in no danger of winning any race but at least able to acquit myself well. I ran the Jack-o-Lantern 5K to benefit the Northpointe Council over the Halloween weekend. I have not run “competitively” in a number of years, and a knee injury kept me out of other contests this spring and summer. I chose this race only because it circled Goat Island and followed a decent stretch of the Niagara River – some of my favorite areas to bike in the immediate area. So signing up for this race was a whim – I had the day available, it would be a pretty view, and the weather wasn’t too bad. Late in the season, I expected a handful of runners, and a sleepy affair.

Wow, was I wrong. A half hour before the race I was registered runner #595, and the line spilled out of the tent behind me. The starting line was dense and festive, a friendly elbow or bump not unheard of once the whistle sounded. I finished in 23 minutes flat, a good time for me, and was disappointed at being 63rd . . . until runners followed me in for a full half hour. The party continued after the run, with free food, live entertainment, and post-mortem race talk with folks I didn’t know an hour before. I was overwhelmed by the entire event – the size and vibe of the crowd, the competiveness of the field (winning time of 15:20), and the friendliness and generosity of each runner I chatted with.

As I age, I enjoy and appreciate running all the more. It’s the simplest of sports with a Darwinian purpose – our ancestors likely chased their meals until they wore down from exhaustion, winning the day with endurance, not speed. As our bodies grow older, our capacity for long distance running does not flag, and may even increase. Marathoners can continue posting excellent times until late in life, and many ultra-marathoners don’t pick up the sport until middle age. Grandma and Grandpa had to keep up with the pack chasing down the herds across ancient savannah, so evolution is on your side. If you start slow, you too can get back into long distance shape.

Don’t be deterred by Buffalo’s climate either. You can run all year, with the right equipment (hat, gloves, leggings, solid shoes – I weat shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt until the thermometer dips below freezing) and determination. There are few better ways to enjoy a pleasant day than a run in a scenic venue, but temperature and locale need not be perfect. I enjoy the different challenges that come with our varying weather. Hot and humid days are great excuses to build up a massive sweat and push yourself against the trying conditions. Running in the rain is refreshing, and earns you funny looks from passing motorists. And even in the dead of winter, once the snow has been cleared from sidewalks or roadsides, a brisk run through the still, silent beauty is exhilarating. The snow muffles all sounds other than the rhythmic crunch of your shoes and huff and puff of your breath.

But we aren’t there yet. This week I got two gorgeous runs in, along the river and in full, still-warming, sunshine. Even better, the signature party run of the year is only a week and a half away: the 115th Annual YMCA Turkey Trot down Delaware Avenue.

In truth, my moniker is less than apt today – there are few events more urban than the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. No matter – see you down there with 12,499 other friends.