5 St. Patrick’s Day parades this weekend, including the huge New Haven version
Say “Slainte!” — twice. St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, which means the traditional Irish celebration will stretch to two full weekends — with Hartford, Essex, New London, Milford and New Haven holiday parades this first weekend, March 10-11.
New Haven’s parade, from Sherman Avenue, down Chapel Street and up Church Street to Grove and the corner of Orange Street, is the St. Paddy granddaddy of marches in Connecticut, the 176th since 1842, with 3,000 to 3,5000 marchers and an estimated 350,000 spectators. It steps off at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 11.
Among the nearly 150 units marching, “We’re also going to feature four very nice additions,” said Hamden-raised Coleman Walsh Jr., executive chairman of the Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “The Joseph A. Ferko String Band (of the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia), the New York Fire Department Emerald Society Pipe and Drums unit ... the Funky Dawgs Brass Band (UConn grads) and the Stony Creek Fife & Drum, who after our parade will get on a plane and fly to Dublin for their parade.”
Like the other parades around the state, the New Haven version doesn’t just happen after a few phone calls or emails. Walsh leads a large committee from the four Irish societies around New Haven that puts on events all year (a 5K race, New Haven Bed Race, fashion show) and lines up sponsors to raise funds for the significant costs associated with such a large parade. Some marching units are paid for their appearance and police overtime must be paid.
The parade stepped off to a temperature of about 14 degrees last year, but cold or not — and Walsh is hopeful this year’s will be in the 40s — the green-wearing parade is a harbinger of nicer weather and brighter days.
“It’s really a celebration of not only Irish culture, but of the culture of all ethnic groups to come together at the end of winter and look forward to the springtime and the fine weather,” said Walsh, who noted that, per tradition, Church Street will be renamed Kevin J. Smith Boulevard, for the grand marshal of the 2002 parade who died at 59 in October. (This year’s grand marshal is Patrick J. Smith, of New Haven.)
New Haven-based WTNH-TV (News 8) takes over live TV coverage of the New Haven parade after several years with WTIC (Fox-61). Parade officials signed a three-year contract with WTNH General Manager Rich Graziano, who formerly led Fox-61 (which will continue to show the Hartford parade, beginning at 11:30 a.m.)
Walsh said New Haven’s parade, known as the most widely attended one-day event in Connecticut every year, is a free, family-oriented event that welcomes people of all ages. (Parade officials and police in recent years have worked to curb the abuse of alcohol at the parade.)
In a news release, Graziano said, “To us, what the parade represents is tradition; it is so important to families in the area and their personal history.”
The Hartford parade will be Saturday, March 10, at 11 a.m., according to the Central Connecticut Celtic Cultural Committee. The parade begins at Capitol Avenue by the State Capitol, takes a left on Main Street, a left on Asylum, a left on Ford Street and then ends by the Memorial Arch.
The Essex Go Bragh (translated as Essex Forever) Irish Parade & Festival will take place Saturday, March 10, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., starting at Essex Town Hall and moving down Main Street into the heart of Essex Village, followed by the festival portion that will include free horse and carriage rides, face painting with Bohemian Body Art and special events at the Griswold Inn.
Milford’s parade will take place downtown at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at River and Broad streets.
The New London St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place Sunday, March 11, in downtown New London at 1 p.m. The parade route runs from the Bank Street Connector down Bank Street, past the reviewing company at the start of State Street and down State to the end point on Washington Street.
Two more parades arrive in coming weeks: The Greater Bridgeport St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on Friday, March 16, starting at noon and proceeding up Broad Street to Fairfield Avenue and down Main Street to South Frontage Road. The Mystic Irish Parade on Sunday, March 25, starts at 1 p.m. at Mystic Seaport and moves through downtown Mystic and ends at the Mystic Arts Center.