BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Water Buffalo Club 716 is a group of dedicated Buffalo Bills fans that sport Fred Flintstone inspired water buffalo hats around Western New York. The club started with Therese Forton-Barnes, also known as the grand pooh-baah of the club, and her friend. Forton-Barnes said they wanted to wear something fun to the Bills playoff game.
“We know how Buffalonians are, or even if you’re not from Buffalo just Bills fans, we stick together,” Forton-Barnes said on News 4 WakeUp!.
The club former on a fluke after Therese and her friend wore these styled hats to a Bills playoff game. From there, the idea for the hats took off. This group of Bills fans combines all things Bills Mafia including team pride, fandemonium and giving back to the community.
“We had so many people that wanted us to get hats for them. It was just one thing after the next and then dozens and then hundreds of people. Then I said, we better start a club,” Forton-Barnes added.
That’s when Water Buffalo Club 716 was formed. It now boasts 2,200 members across the world. There are many famous members of the Water Buffalo Club 716, too. ESPN’s Chris Berman, former Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, Olympian Summer Sanders and Cheektowaga native William Fitchner are all club members.
Proceeds from all sales benefit two local organizations, including the Buffalo Zoo’s Bison Exhibit.
“We’re making donations to the cause to bring these Bison to Buffalo, which they just did. They grew their herd like we’re growing our herd, and keep that exhibit going,” Forton-Barnes continued.
There are two versions of the hat: classic and deluxe. The deluxe version is made right here in Buffalo by members of Stitch Buffalo, a non-profit that empowers refugee women who make handcrafted items like the water buffalo hat. Forton-Barnes says the women came to Buffalo with little to no knowledge about the Buffalo Bills, but now they are fans, even saying ‘Go Bills’ as they make the hats.
“Some of them are from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Burma. They are making these deluxe hats right on Niagara Street, all hand made. We are supporting this charity as well,” Forton-Barnes explained.
The club’s newest hat designed debuted in time for a game many Bills fans had circled on their calendars: Bills at Chiefs in Week 6. Many members traveled to Kansas City to support their team, even hosting a tailgate Saturday night with “417 Bills Mafia”, a fan group based in Kansas City.
For Therese, it is more than celebrating her hometown Bills. It is about bringing similes to young and old, and giving back to the community she loves.
“It’s just exciting. It’s just going to keep growing, and growing and growing. And the more we grow, the more we can give back to those great causes,” Forton-Barnes concluded.
The club’s motto is inspired by the Flintstones: Yabba Dabba Doo! Forton-Barnes says she hope fans enjoy seeing and wearing the hats. At the next Bills home game on Oct. 30 against the Green Bay Packers, Water Buffalo Club 716 members will even be sporting full Fred Flintstone outfits.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.