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Spirit of Buffalo honored for 10 years on Buffalo's waterfront

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

As local leaders marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Canalside project, a boat tour provider was honored for their own decade on the waterfront.

Before there were the boardwalk, Adirondack chairs, skating by winter and paddle boats by summer and other newer waterfront activities, there was the Spirit of Buffalo. Moored a short distance from the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, the Spirit of Buffalo offers passengers a chance to learn about the history of the city's waters and how they helped Buffalo become one of the nation's most important ports in a bygone era.

On Monday, as elected officials were celebrating the tenth anniversary of Canalside, Mayor Byron Brown read a proclamation honoring the Spirit of Buffalo for its own decade on the waterfront.

"When we first arrived 10 years ago, Mayor Brown gave us a ship's wheel to guide us to success," said Rich Hilliman, owner of the Spirit of Buffalo and Buffalo River History Tours. "The first couple of years were a little tough. There wasn't much crowds here but over the past few years, all the programming and development has been wonderful to see."

As the people came, Hilliman told WBFO, so too did a renewed interest in the local history.

"Just being here ar Canalside, I'm getting more and more people saying 'Where's the Erie Canal? Where did it start?' Not only are they coming down here just to enjoy Canalside, they've realized the connection to history. They know the Commercial Slip is a part of history here at Canalside," Hilliman said.

Brown announced that several local youth affiliated with the Buffalo Police Athletic League would soon be guests of honor aboard the Spirit of Buffalo.

"This has become everybody's waterfront," he said. "From every section of Buffalo, from every area of Erie County and from all across the nation and internationally, people are flocking to the Buffalo waterfront."

The mayor admitted, though, that for many of the youth, it might be their first time aboard a boat. Hilliman offered his own reason why people should think of paying a visit, especially this week.

"Not only is it a heck of a view and a great view of the city, it's a bit cooler out there too," he said, alluding to the heat wave which was still in effect.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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