Northampton contingent ready for St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Holyoke
NORTHAMPTON — With the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade just one day away, Northampton participants are making their final preparations and putting the finishing touches on this year’s float.
The parade will begin at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Holyoke Shopping Center plaza. It will head north along Northampton Street, then follow a route along Beech, Appleton and High streets until coming to an end on Lyman Street.
Preparing to march in what is believed to be the nation’s second largest annual St. Patrick’s Day parade entails hard work, said Tom Dunphy, a member of the Northampton St. Patrick’s Association’s board of directors.
“People think, ‘Oh, it’s a parade, I guess we’ll go down there and get in line,’ ” he said, “but we have people that represent us down in Holyoke on the board of the parade, and then we have to put our contingent together, get buses for the people to get down there and back. It’s a lot of work, time and preparation to get this done.”
Dunphy has been involved with the St. Patrick’s Association for over 20 years, and served as the group’s parade marshal in 2011.
Tim Driscoll, another member of the St. Patrick’s Association, is in charge of the pre- and post-parade planning. He said Northampton’s contingent will meet at the Baystate American Legion in Northampton and board buses bound for Holyoke around 10:30 a.m.
After the parade, the buses will transport the group back to the same location, where a corned beef and cabbage dinner will be provided. Dunphy said this year’s contingent will include – in addition to members of the St. Patrick’s Association – Northampton’s mayor and city councilors, the Northampton fire and police departments, the Florence Savings Bank, the Hilltown Police Association, the Hampshire County Deputy Sheriff and the Northampton High School band.
“Northampton has probably one of the biggest contingents that we’ve had over the course of the last 15 years,” said Mike Ahearn, of Northampton, one of the St. Patrick’s Association’s liaisons to Holyoke.
“It’s nice that the fire department and the police department are back marching with us,” said Ahearn. “It’s a great addition to our group,” he said.
The Northampton Veteran’s Council, the VFW, the Mass 10th Civil War reenactment group, and the Framingham High School band will also join the contingent.
“The Veteran’s Council and the VFW, they’re new with us. It’s the first time they’ve ever been in the parade, so that’s a nice touch, ” said Ahearn.
The float, based on the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” includes a group of students from Northampton High School who will act out the film’s famous parade scene.
Dunphy said the float will be entertaining, as usual. “Those guys are always up to something,” he said of the float builders. “You never know what they’re going to pull out up there. They put a lot of time and effort into that, and that’s always a big treat to see what they’ve developed.”
“It should be a real crowd pleaser,” said Driscoll, of the float’s theme, “I’m actually surprised it’s never been done in the float before. We thought this was a great idea.”
As part of the preparations, the St. Patrick’s Association held its annual awards banquet on March 2, where Col. James J. Keefe was named this year’s parade marshal and attorney Sean T. Sullivan was awarded the group’s James Brennan Award.
Keefe, a United States Air Force colonel who was recently given command of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base, said he was both excited and surprised to receive the honor. His father, Maj. Gen. George W. Keefe, served as parade marshal in 1994.
“I’m really thankful that they did select me,” said Keefe. “They give you the walking stick, the Irish shillelagh. It’s pretty cool. It’s got all the names in brass.
According to Ahearn, approximately 400,000 people are expected to line the streets to watch the parade, and around 1 million will watch the event, which it televised on television. WGBY Channel 57 will be live streaming the event beginning at noon.
“It’s just an amazing situation,” he said. “Over 10,000 marchers will go down the street. You pray for good weather, but even in bad weather it’s a great event.”