Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade

Today Susan, Peter & I attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Holyoke, MA which is the second largest parade in the country after New York.  I’m something of a connoisseur of St. Patrick’s Day parades having gone to New York almost annually growing up, South Boston a couple of times in the late 90’s, and the Dublin extravaganza in 2002 so I’ve been meaning to check out Holyoke for some time.

I have to say I was impressed.  The parade was typical of St. Patrick’s Day parades in featuring lots of firefighters, police, military personnel and pipe & drum bands among its participants.  Oh how I love pipe & drum bands!  There was a strong local feel as high school marching bands and community groups from Holyoke and surrounding municipalities enthusiastically participated as did at least two high school hockey teams who claimed to be 2009 state champions.  What was really great about the Holyoke parade is that St. Patrick is not exclusively Irish as many participants and spectators represented every culture and ethnicity that lives in the area.  One of my favorite floats featured steel drums and was sponsored by a Puerto Rican community organization.

As I posted on St. Patrick’s Day, I have fond memories of attending the NYC parade as a child so it was fun to watch how my 16-month-old son Peter enjoyed the parade.  At first he seemed confused by the whole thing but he soon got into the swing of things waving at the participants, clapping and dancing to the steel drums.  A good number of military personnel, firefighters, police, and even the American Red Cross came over to shake Peter’s hand.  If this is typical of the attention a cute kid can get at a parade, no wonder I have fond memories of my own childhood.

At the Mass Pike rest area McDonald’s on the way home, we talked with a local couple who spoke enthusiastically about the parade, even if they feel the weather is not always the best.  The woman remembered seeing the then Senator John F. Kennedy up close and personal and admiring his handsomeness.  The man told us he marched in the parade in the 1970’s.  It’s clear to me that Holyoke has a good tradition for celebrating St. Patrick’s and I hope to witness it again in future years.