Floats, bands fill out Holyoke’s 67th St. Patrick’s Parade

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    Chicopee's "Noah's Ark," a float carrying several Colleens, progresses down the street March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Andrew Tan, left, and Liz Vargas, both of the Northampton High School band, progress down the street March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • An Irish (clover) flag and an American flag flutter in the breeze atop a Shriners' vehicle March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, right, waves at the crowd as she marches with the city contingent March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The Worcester Kiltie Pipe Band marches Saturday in the 67th annual St. Patrick’s Parade in Holyoke. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Michaela Guzman, 7, left, and her grandmother Kathy Desmarais, both of Holyoke, cheer as the 67th annual St. Patrick's Parade progresses through Holyoke on Sunday. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Joe O'Grady of Barkhamsted, Conn., left, and his daughter Sydney Williams, 8, run ahead to join their group, a contingent with parade president Timothy O'Grady, during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade March 18, 2018 in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Sophomore Caleb Kovalchik of the South Hadley High School band, center, progresses down the street March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The Philadelphia-based Fralinger String Band progresses down the street March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The Connecticut Hurricanes Drum and Bugle Corps contingent moves down the street March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Bill Metzger, dressed as St. Patrick, proceeds down the street March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Robert William, 7, of Holyoke, left, Brennan Lowe, 8, of South Hadley and Jeremiah Hall, 8, of Holyoke, huddle for warmth as Joelene Christmas-Chase of Holyoke, who is Hall's mother, adjusts the blanket around them March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Springfield attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, Democratic Candidate for the Massachusetts 1st Congressional District, center, marches March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School criminal justice students including ninth-grader Yenaira Pazo-Muniz, center, progress down the street March 18, 2018 during the 67th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@BeraDunau
Published: 3/18/2018 10:40:58 PM

NORTHAMPTON — It’s a truism that on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. And if that is the case, then it’s certainly true at the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade.

“It’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend, so everyone’s Irish for a bit,” said Owen Zaret, an Easthampton city councilor marching in his first Holyoke parade.

Featuring floats, bands, public officials, police officers, firefighters and sports teams, the parade is one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the United States, and a marquee event on the city’s calendar.

First established in 1952, the parade now draws people of all backgrounds and origins to Holyoke to don shamrocks, wear green and wave the Irish tricolor, in a celebration that’s still going strong decades after it first came into being.

“Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz.

Although Narkewicz has a polish last name, he has an Irish grandmother. He also said that he answers to “O’Narkewicz.”

At 68, William “Duke” O’Riordan, the marshal for the Northampton contingent in the parade, is only a little older than the parade itself, and he estimates that he’s only missed about five of them.

“It’s a memory, and it’s creating new memories,” he said.

He also said that it is a part of Irish culture for Irish people remember where they came from.

“The Irish aren’t better than anybody else,” continued O’Riordan. “But they’re as good as anybody else.”

Another longtime parade-goer is Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle. Of Irish extraction herself, LaChapelle grew up in Holyoke going to the parade “in utero,” and she estimates that she’s missed only a handful. Still, at age 50, this will be her first time marching in it, a fact she delighted in sharing.

“Irish women don’t give up,” she said.

She  also noted how women were a vital part of the creation of the Irish Republic.

Since he moved to Holyoke in  1992 with his family, Abdullah Rehayem has attended the St. Patrick’s Parade yearly. Wearing a tricolor hat with a shamrock emblazoned on it, Rehayem expressed his appreciation for the event.

“The camaraderie, the neighborhood feeling, the music, the people in it and the people around you,” Rehayem said of what he enjoys about the parade.

Rehayem immigrated from Lebanon some years ago, and said that he saw a connection between the Irish immigration story and his own.

“The Irish were not born here, last I knew,” he said, noting the contributions of immigrants to this country.

O’Riordan said that being mindful of the immigrants who have come after the Irish is an important part of Irish identity that he was taught.

“You can’t forget who’s followed you,” he said.

Jeff and Vanessa Lagoy, of Holyoke, were enjoying the parade in front of Jeff’s cousin’s house, which has won a number of awards for the crowds outside it at the parade over the years.

“We love it,” Jeff Lagoy said of the parade.

Jeff is of Irish extraction, while Vanessa is not, although with a caveat.

“I am when it comes to the weekend,” said Vanessa, sporting shamrock decorations on her face.

She said she and her husband hoped to continue the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade tradition with their children.

Meggan Gilboy, 42, is the president of the Northampton St. Patrick’s Association, which organizes the Northampton contingent of the parade. She has never missed a parade.

This year, the Northampton contingent marched in honor of the late Rep. Peter Kocot, the longtime representative for the 1st Hampshire District who died last month after a battle with cancer. Gilboy noted that Kocot marched with the Northampton contingent every parade.

“He’s with us now,” said Gilboy. “He’s looking upon us.”

“He never forgot the Northampton community,” said O’Riordan, who said that he was sad but proud to wear the green armband honoring Kocot.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com

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