MILFORD — When the city’s 30th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade steps off March 14, it will be with 50 units and 1,000 marchers, parade committee chairman Martin Hardiman said.

“I call it ‘my rite of spring,’” said Hardiman, who has been chairman of the event for the last 25 years. “It is a fun time for families. It is a great way to celebrate one’s Irish heritage. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”

John and Heather Profetto, former owners of Rainbow Gardens, will share grand marshal duties. The parade starts at 1 p.m. at Wasson Field.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Heather Profetto, whose Irish connection goes back to the 1500s in County Cork. “My love for the parade comes from the floats. It was slower at the restaurant in January and February, so we (the staff) would collaborate and pick a different scene to make a float (and became 4-time trophy winners). We would use our creative side and look to come up with something unique.

“The second-best thing is that every year the parade ended in our front yard (at Rainbow Gardens),” she said.

John Profetto said he is honored to serve as a grand marshal.

“We are in amazing company,” he said. “At the dinner, there were grand marshals from the last 20 years there to welcome us. I always figured that after the event, you move on. I’m humbled to know that the honor will stay with you.”

Sierra O’Keefe is this year’s Miss Emerald Isle.

“I starting to scream to my folks (Laurie and Shawn) when I got the phone call,” said O’Keefe, a 19-year-old sophomore at Assumption College. “My great-great grandfather is from Galway and other relatives are from Cork.

“The parade is a big event for all the O’Keefes,” Sierra O’Keefe said. “Since I was little, I’d dress in all green, and even color my hair. After the parade I’d go that way to soccer practice.”

Hardiman said the parade organizers raise money for insurance, police, and some marching groups. “All money raised then goes out where it is needed,” he said.

“Being the grand marshal was pretty neat (in 2010),” he said. “To lead the parade and see all the people in Milford turning out and having a great time is a powerful feeling.”

Carol Schneider and Maureen Birge began the parade in 1991. They wanted to share their Irish heritage with like-minded Milford residents. Around 200 spectators took to the sidewalks to watch that first year. The parade route is now annually filled with some 20,000 spectators from all around the area.

The Milford St. Patrick’s Day Parade annual pancake breakfast is scheduled to be held from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 8 at the Masonic Hall (next to Milford Bank) on Broad Street. Pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, juice, coffee, tea and pastries will be served. The donation to support the parade is $8 per person. (Make checks payable to St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee)