HOLYOKE — Marching bands, police, clowns, firefighters, politicians and pageant queens rolled through downtown Holyoke Sunday for the 66th annual St. Patrick’s Parade.
There were contingents from Philadelphia to Connecticut to Northampton, and plenty of people wearing whatever green they could find watching from the sidelines. The parade is considered one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the United States.
Holyoke Police Lt. Isaias Cruz reported no problems with Sunday’s parade, saying everything was “perfect.” Saturday, however, 10 people were arrested for drunken and disorderly conduct in the hours following the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race.
Most Hampshire County participants waited until the end of the parade to start the route, including Jim Corey, 67, with the South Hadley St. Patrick’s Parade Committee.
The float he and others designed featured life-sized versions of Snoopy and Woodstock, blue wrapping and a tribute to their late friend Leon Zochowski, who died last December at 96 and was a World War II veteran.
“He was 96 years old and he was still working on the float,” Corey said. “He was the one that would climb up without batting an eye.”
One group that didn’t have to wait was the Girl Scouts of Western Mass Troop 12960, representing Easthampton and Southampton.
“We’ve done little parades around town but this year they wanted to do a big parade,” said leader Heather Brophy as the 10 or so girls waited in the staging area.
“What I like most about St. Patrick’s Day is that everyone’s so happy,” said Katie Hinkle, 10. “I always wanted to do this since I was a little Daisy.”
“I like it because I’m half Irish and I just think — I don’t know, I think it’s cool,” said Natalia Herrera, 10. “I expect it to be noisy and just sort of fun.”
This was not Jacki Reardon’s first time in the parade. The South Hadley resident toted a wooden cane like many others gathered in the staging area, denoting three honors she’d received over the years: the 2010 Gallivan Award, the president of the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the 2017 South Hadley Parade Marshal.
“The parade committee is like a family,” she said, adding that they often talk about where their ancestors were from in Ireland. She also said the parade wasn’t limited to those of Irish heritage.
“I like to see the diverse groups out,” Reardon said.
She said she likes the corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, but doesn’t like the cold. Parade participants gathered early Sunday, around 9 a.m., in the staging area by the Kmart on Northampton Street.
Those waiting along the side streets streamed in, too, some coming as early as the parade participants.
Kelly Holt, 48, of Springfield, said she and her family left the house at 9 a.m. to set up their spot in front of the McDonald’s at the start of the parade route.
“We got a late start today,” she said, holding a green aluminum Bud Light bottle at about 11:30. For Holt and her friends, coming to the parade is a tradition. They ate reubens, shamrock cookies, and grilled hot dogs and brats.
“This is our 15th year,” she said, adding that about 20 people showed. “Usually we have more, but it’s cold. People are chickening out.”
Jennifer Bartosz, 43, of Granby was holding a sign promoting the Leprechaun Plunge at Brunelle’s Marina, which last week raised money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“It’s a good time,” she said, saying they showed up at 7:30 to tailgate. “It’s a lot of fun.”
She was followed by a massive truck hauling a load of revelers with speakers blasting.
Mac Mailhott, a 35-year veteran of the South Hadley Police Department, wore a sash that said “last parade.” He was retiring in nine days.
“Some of these people that are here — I remember when they were kids,” he said. “I love it.”
Jack Suntrup can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.