Let's begin with a few simple facts:
I love food.
I love meeting people.
I love tradition.
I do not love crowds.
You can imagine my mixed feelings when I learned I was going to the Broadway Market on its busiest day of the year to report live for our 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts.
I had heard stories of people packed in like sardines in a can. I knew about the importance of Easter weekend for vendors: the revenue made this weekend sustains them for much of the year. I had met people who told me about their decades-old family tradition of visiting the Broadway Market on Good Friday.
So, as I entered the Broadway Market on Friday afternoon, I was armed with a decent understanding of what I was getting myself into.
Still, my experience was so much more than anything I could have expected.
In a way, the Broadway Market on Good Friday is a microcosm of Western New York. It's exploding with unpretentious pride, camaraderie, quirkiness, and community.
On one side of a counter, you see entire families together deciding on what food to buy and try (I truly don't think I saw anyone look anything short of happy to be there). On the other side of the counter, you have family-run operations that are reinforced by longtime friends who are happy to help during the Easter rush.
Take Famous Horseradish, for example. Margie Ruszkiewicz's father immigrated to Buffalo decades ago. Now, the whole family runs the horseradish shop year-round. (Full disclosure: my Assistant News Director takes the day off work every year to help them out, because, well, he's a friend of their family and that's just how friends help friends here in Buffalo.)
Another highlight was meeting Mackenzie and Aidan, two teenage girls who decided to use their spring break to help staff the fudge booth. Then again... who wouldn't want to staff a fudge booth...
Much of the food comes from traditional Polish recipes, learned and re-learned and perfected through the generations. I loved getting a lesson on the placek (Polish coffee cake) at Chrusciki Bakery. I can't wait to try it.
Yes, the Broadway Market is crowded. But by mid-afternoon, it was absolutely manageable. I fully understand why so many people make this novelty an annual destination and tradition.
I truly hope the venue can come more of a year-round destination for Western New Yorkers. It will take creative minds, bold lawmakers, and a committed community to make that happen. I look forward to the day it does.