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Sean Kirst: The Blue Lights of Auburn – an indication of the occasions at Payments video games | Native Information | Auburn, NY |

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The Blue Lights of Auburn.

Heard by cellphone, the phrases triggered a flash of reminiscence for Tom Weston, however it took a second or two for him to nail it down – a response I think many graying Buffalo Payments loyalists will share.

Given a second, he got here up with it. Sure, within the stands behind the visiting bench, close to midfield! At what was then known as Wealthy Stadium, they have been the regulars with that signal everybody noticed.

Weston, 81, labored for years as an Erie County sheriff’s deputy. After retiring, he helped present safety at Payments video games, the place his duties included ensuring the opposing coach might get on and off the sector, with out worries.

“It was a distinct time,” Weston stated. This was a stable 30 years in the past or extra, when issues felt just a little looser alongside the sidelines. As soon as, earlier than a sport, Weston introduced alongside a chipper and killed time by knocking a couple of golf balls by way of the goalposts. He additionally constructed a rapport with a set of followers who sat within the row closest to the visiting workforce’s bench, those who all the time hung their check in a high-profile place:

Persons are additionally studying…

Sean Kirst

“The Blue Lights. Auburn, N.Y. Go Payments.”

Regardless of what it might sound, it had nothing to do with beer. The Blue Lights, it seems, have been a Cayuga County wedding ceremony band. Weston was pleasant with the regulars who routinely drove 125 miles for front-row seats. He used to allow them to by way of just a little gate and onto the sector to tie down the form of banner not allowed on field-level partitions in Nationwide Soccer League stadiums.

Bills fan Sam Giangreco

Salvatore “Sam” Giangreco,, of Auburn appears by way of pictures from the heyday of the Blue Lights signal at then-Wealthy Stadium.

“They have been good guys,” stated Weston, who instantly requested me what grew to become of them.

For many years, I had puzzled the identical factor. I used to be an adolescent once I first observed the signal, and it was solely by way of an 89-year-old reader and correspondent named Mike Ricci, who grew up in Niagara Falls and have become an educator, umpire and author in Auburn, that I discovered of the parents I needed to name: The couple answerable for the banner – Salvatore “Sam” Giangreco and his spouse, Sheila – are each of their 70s and nonetheless season ticket holders who might be there within the chilly on the sport towards the Patriots Saturday night time.

Sam, a barber’s son, is a longtime Auburn Enlarged Metropolis Faculty District Board of Training member and a retired faculty custodian. Sheila is a retired insurance coverage dealer. They’re great-grandparents who snort about how they met after they shared the identical divorce lawyer within the Seventies, resulting in a wedding properly past 40 years.

Their Payments caravan is usually down to only them, although at peak it included 10 regulars who helped make the Blue Lights into a well-known a part of the stadium panorama by way of the golden age of the Nineteen Nineties.

When you want proof, check out how prominently the signal reveals up in footage of the nice 1993 comeback towards Houston.

Requested in regards to the couple’s Payments allegiance, Sheila – who has already borrowed a grandson’s snowpants for the sport – stated merely: “Oh my God!” They’re comfortable to tug out classic New York Payments license plates from that area in time when the workforce used pink helmets. Even so, few who see them bundled up Saturday night time will understand how this couple carved out a singular piece of the fan panorama lengthy earlier than the rise of right this moment’s Payments Mafia.

Bills fan Sam Giangreco

Sheila and Salvatore “Sam” Giangreco, of Auburn, third and fourth from proper behind the signal, with one among their classic Blue Lights banners. Their daughter-in-law Jessica is to the left, their son Kevin to the best, and a good friend, Invoice Alferi, can also be behind the signal. 

The Blue Lights got here collectively when Sam and his mates have been youngsters at Auburn’s outdated Mount Carmel Excessive Faculty. Guitarist Bob Spadafora stated it was his father who urged they mannequin their title after “Blue Mild,” a short-lived 1966 tv present starring Robert Goulet. Earlier than lengthy, a band that includes Giangreco, Spadafora, Mick Savino, John Bertonica and the late Ron Garropy was a sizzling ticket at proms, events and lots of, many weddings. Their signature tune was “I Need to Do It,” impressed by Bobby Comstock and the Counts,although Giangreco stated, sure, they completely performed “Shout.”

Aside from temporary reunions, the band dissolved years in the past. Whereas Spadafora stated the opposite Blue Lights have been occasional vacationers to Payments video games, the workforce was actually a Giangreco obsession. He and Sheila have been shut with one other Auburn couple, Ken and Diane Kudla, who have been regulars because the Lou Saban period, a time when artistic banners earned large consideration. With entrance row seats alongside the 40, Giangreco had an inspiration.

Auburn Blue Lights

The Blue Lights of Auburn, within the Seventies, with Salvatore “Sam” Giangreco to the best.

He went to Roger Button, an Auburn signmaker, and paid possibly $60 for 2 indicators, one yellow and one white, as smart an funding as ever made by a marriage band. As Giangreco hoped, numerous Payments followers in some unspecified time in the future through the years needed to surprise:

Who and what have been the Blue Lights?

That banner became a stadium fixed. It was on the wall when Jerry Butler, Joe Cribbs and Joe Ferguson led the Payments in 1980 to an enormous win over the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers, and through the 1988 season that was such a breakout 12 months, and for the 1993 comeback that continues to be one of the vital electrifying days in soccer historical past. It stayed there, Giangreco stated, till the band lastly broke up and signal insurance policies modified. 

Bills fan Sam Giangreco

Sam Giangreco, of Auburn, has been a fixture at Payments video games for many years, even having the customized license plate “BILLS”, which he acquired within the Seventies.

The Giangrecos saved going. True believers, they journeyed to the primary three of 4 Buffalo appearances in Nineteen Nineties Tremendous Bowls. That they had tickets to the fourth one in Atlanta however figured – within the form of mystical reasoning well-known to the devoted – that possibly staying house would offer a cosmic jolt to assist change the workforce’s fortunes.

Now they hope no matter luck they stashed away that 12 months can pay ahead on this rubber sport towards the Patriots.

They provide many tales about Payments video games and the ability of the signal, about legends who wandered over for a couple of moments of dialog, about individuals who noticed the banner on tv and known as from the far aspect of the nation to recall memorable weddings. However of all these tales, they are saying one means probably the most.


Jeff Campbell, throughout his service with the Military.

Within the mid-Nineteen Nineties, a younger soldier from Auburn, Jeff Campbell, was serving with the U.S. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. He contacted his dad and mom, Jim and Renee Campbell, in pleasure: He had been watching a Payments sport in a faraway place by way of the American Forces Community, when abruptly he observed an indication alongside the stadium wall.

It was for a marriage band everybody knew in his hometown.

An emotional Campbell instructed his household how he felt a sudden, overwhelming sense of upstate loyalty. He would finally return to Cayuga County, the place he married his spouse Jennifer and adopted his dad, a state trooper, right into a profession in legislation enforcement with the New York Parks Police. Campbell died in 2020, at 45, after years of battle with an autoimmune deficiency that his mom stated the federal government connects to his time in Bosnia.

Auburn Blue Lights

The Blue Lights at a more moderen reunion, Salvatore “Sam” Giangreco to the left.

“He was a Payments fan,” she stated, remembering that second with the banner, “and once I consider these guys, I consider what they meant to Jeff when he was abroad so way back.”

That signal is now lengthy gone from the stadium, totem of one other time, however Sam and Sheila Giangreco promise you this: If the Payments discover a solution to sometime win all of it, the final of the Blue Lights would possibly simply have to collect for another music.      

Sean Kirst is a columnist with The Buffalo Information. Electronic mail him at

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