PAWTUCKET — The grand marshal and Irish “faces” have been chosen, the raffle has been held and the shamrock will be painted in the street in front of City Hall this morning. In short, the city is gearing up for its annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday.
The parade will step off on Saturday, March 2, at noon (rain or shine) from McCoy Stadium on Division Street. The parade then proceeds down South Bend Street to Walcott Street, then into the downtown and onto Roosevelt Avenue, where it passes by a reviewing stand in front of City Hall.
The 2013 parade will be led by this year's grand marshal, Michael Cassidy, a Pawtucket native and city resident who served as the longtime director of planning and redevelopment. Also front and center in the parade will be this year's “Faces of Ireland” winners, Amanda Lambert and Kit Miller. The line-up also includes marching bands, dancers, floats, clowns, fire trucks and participants from numerous sports teams and civic organizations.
Immediately following, the Parade Committee will host a free party at the Pawtucket Armory Center for the Arts for parade participants and members of the public. Irish music will be provided by the Tom Lanigan Band and the Rhode Island Firefighters Pipe and Drum Band will perform. There will be food, beer and wine for sale, and vendors offering T-shirts and other novelty items.
The pre-parade fun begins the night before, on Friday, March 1, when the Pawtucket Armory hosts the Grand Marshal's Reception. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., friends and family of Michael Cassidy are invited to toast him and roast him, and watch while he officially receives the grand marshal's walking stick and sash. Tickets cost $25 per person and are available at the door.
Cassidy said he is “thrilled” to be selected to lead the parade as grand marshal. “I've lived all these years in Pawtucket and I've always gone to the parade, so this is exciting. My grandchildren are thrilled, too.” He added that he was also looking forward to the reception. “Friday night will be an opportunity for me to thank people,” he stated.
This year's parade co-chairs are longtime Parade Committee member Arthur Brunelle and a newer volunteer, Chris McDonald. Both men say they are proud to be part of a great tradition that began in the city 31 years ago as a celebration of all things Irish.
“We haven't lost a beat in 31 years!”noted Brunelle, of the event that is anticipated by city residents young and old. “The city has been a big help, as well. Without the city workers, there wouldn't be a parade.”
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Brunelle, who has served on the Parade Committee for the past 20 years, said the group starts meeting in September to plan for the March event. While the committee has lost some of its older members, he said there are several new faces who have joined in, which is important to the parade's future. He credits the younger volunteers for promoting the parade on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.
For McDonald, who moved to the city in recent years and started the family-friendly Sons and Daughters of Erin organization, this is his third year of involvement with the St. Patrick's Day Parade. He noted that the Irish were working in the textile mills that Samuel Slater founded, and the city was also home for 40 years to Irish patriot James Wilson. There is a strong Irish heritage in Pawtucket that still exists today, said McDonald. The parade celebrates this heritage and that Pawtucket “is a wonderful city.”
McDonald added that this year, the Parade Committee will be wearing “memory ribbons” in honor of Charlie Kelley, one of its most dedicated members, who died earlier this year.
Prior to the parade, there will be a “running o' the green with the 2013 “Tour de Patrick” 5K race. This Pawtucket race kicks off three race events held over eight days that make up the Tour de Patrick. For more information, visit the website: www.tourdepatrick.com