Twenty-five years ago, Nancy Duffy approached her good friend, Sheila Shattuck, and asked, "Do you want to start a parade?" Shattuck was game but didn't realize at the time exactly what she was getting herself into.
"I thought it would be just a little march around Coleman's Pub or something, but she engaged the whole community," Shattuck recalled. "It was like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, you know, 'Let's put on a show!' But it just took off, partly because she was such a genius at organizing things."
Duffy, who worked as a television reporter here for four decades, died on Dec. 22 after a long struggle with heart disease. She had worked at WSYR-TV Channel 9 since 1977 and previously at WTVH-TV Channel 5 where she had become Syracuse's first female TV reporter.
Nancy Duffy Lane
On Tuesday March 13, Mayor Matt Driscoll renamed South Salina Street "Nancy Duffy Lane" for the week that will culminate in the annual Saturday-afternoon parade which draws tens of thousands of people downtown.
"That's great that they've renamed Salina Street for her," Shattuck said. "She deserves the attention. She was a great human being who never thought of herself."
Janet Higgins agrees. The parade committee president for the past two years, Higgins also lent Duffy a helping hand during the first parade back in 1983.
"She never wanted any of the glory to shine on her," Higgins said. "She wanted to point to others. Nancy was very modest. No one will ever know the trailblazing things she did here. She was incredible."
Irish Trailblazers is the theme of this year's parade.
The 25th annual march down Salina Street will spotlight some 150 units including the Ferko String Band a prize-winning group of gaily-bedecked, banjo-playing Philadelphia Mummers. Among parade newcomers will be the Twisted Axles Four-Wheel Drive group presented by Tony Scarlata.