St. Patrick’s parade expected to be as festive as last year’s

The second annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in the city is to step off at 11 a.m. March 16, according to parade organizer Brenda Everett.

This year, the parade committee has expanded its list of events to include a Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, 711 W. Edwin St., at 8:30 a.m. and a $1,000 award going to the charity of choice of the parade entrant judged to be the “most spirited,” she said.

Last year’s parade brought out an estimated 20,000 spectators, with 600 participants in 60 groups, who energized those with Irish heritage or those who just wanted to celebrate a day days before the official start of spring, she said.

It drew praise from Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley who visited the Lycoming County division of the Ancient Order of Hiberians before the event, she said. Cawley oversees organizing the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Philadelphia.

“Before we got started, he could tell that we had pulled off a top-notch event,” she said. “He’s run the parade in Philadelphia for the last 15 years. It was a huge compliment.”

Everett said food vendors will be available at the parking lot adjoining West Fourth and Hepburn streets and about 20 bars and restaurants are participating citywide, she said.

Several restaurants will have Irish fare such as lamb stew, shepherd’s pie, reubens and different cocktails and varieties of beer. To ensure as much safe driving, the River Valley Transit trollies are scheduled to provide free bus service starting at 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., she said.

Grand marshal is former city Mayor Michael R. Rafferty, who served from 2000 to 2004.

As she plans the event, Everett said she anticipates school bands and bagpipers, large balloons, business floats and stunt performers, including those showing their dexterity on high-wheel bicycles and stilts.

The parade starts at the intersection of Campbell and West Fourth streets and heads east on West Fourth, ending downtown. Unlike the organizers of the annual Little League Grand Slam Parade in August, the committee isn’t providing bleacher seating.

“This event brought out people of all ages and all over who have Irish heritage or who just wanted to celebrate the day,” Everett said. “I’ve never been somewhere and saw that many people from that many areas and everyone having such an amazing time.”