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2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Where: On Elm Street, Manchester, from Salmon Street to Central Street
When: Sunday, March 29, at noon, rain or shine
Contact: saintpatsnh.com




Over-the-top spectacle
St. Patrick’s Parade turns 20

03/12/15
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



Twenty years ago, a handful of New Hampshire residents decided Manchester needed a St. Patrick’s Day parade. 

There hadn’t been anything like it since the 1940s and ’50s, and so under leadership of then Police Chief Tom King, this group started a committee and put on that first parade in 1995 on the first Sunday of March. Current committee president Dan O’Neil remembers it being a beautiful sunny day and a wonderful success.
The 20th anniversary event is Sunday, March 29, and event organizers are working hard to make it an “over-the-top spectacle,” said Stephanie McLaughlin, parade marketing director. The event, she said, is not just a means to celebrate Irish heritage in Manchester; it also brings people downtown on a Sunday in March.
“It’s wonderful for the businesses downtown,” McLaughlin said. “From pizza joints to coffee shops to bars and restaurants, business owners look forward to that day as being a bright spot in winter.”
Event organizers expect upward of 50,000 to line the 1-mile course along Elm Street, to cheer on bagpipe bands, military units, high school bands and, new this year, The Hegeman String Band.
The 40-plus Mummers group from Philadelphia (which performs in the annual Philadelphia Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day, believed to be the oldest continuous folk festival in the United States) has a sound and style whose heritage goes back more than 90 years. The Hegeman String Band performed in Manchester’s 10th anniversary parade but hasn’t been back since. Comparable in Philadelphia to the Mardi Gras Parade Krewes in New Orleans, this group will perform continuously throughout the one-mile stretch.
“They’re like a Broadway show meets a marching band extravaganza. It’s a band, but there are costumes, there are props, and there are potential storylines with musical scenes. It’s really a visual spectacle, and we’re thrilled to be able to bring one of these groups to Manchester to celebrate the parade’s 20th anniversary,” McLaughlin said.
Leading the way will be Grand Marshal John “Jack” O’Connor, a former teacher and member of the founding faculty at St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover, but to Manchester’s Irish population he’s best known as the Lamplighter Restaurant & Pub owner from its 1964 opening until 1981. During its heyday, the pub was the place to go for Irish entertainment throughout the 1970s, and concerts sold out weeks in advance.
This year, viewers will also see more bagpipe bands — six total, two more than last year’s — and more high school bands. Participants include the bands from Londonderry High School and all three Manchester public high schools. 
To fill in the gaps between musicians, parade organizers are, for the first time, formally soliciting groups and organizations of all types to enter floats in the parade. Cash prizes will go to the top three best floats, voted by a panel of judges, and submissions must be made by Friday, March 20. (Guidelines can be viewed at saintpatsnh.com.)
O’Neil takes pride that they’re able to put on the private parade every year, which costs more than $50,000, raised by Manchester and Greater Manchester businesses and sponsors. 
“I’m Irish on both sides of my family. I think it’s a great way to celebrate not only St. Patrick’s Day, but what we call it now, St. Patrick’s Month,” O’Neil said.
At press time, the planning committee was still in negotiations with a myriad of other performing groups; the parade occurs the last weekend of March so as not to compete with other area St. Patrick’s Day events, so check the site for updates. 
 
As seen in the March 12, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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