The Shamrock Club of New Dublin will host its 31st annual St. Patrick’s Parade and Irish Fest in downtown New London, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 21.
Since the parade’s humble beginnings in 1983, it has grown to become the largest in the state, including over 100 entries and an estimated 30,000 spectators.
Twenty-year veteran parade director Jill Hart says this year’s line-up is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
The Grand Parade will feature seven bands including, three bagpipe groups and four high school marching bands. The South Shore Drill team from Chicago will return this year as well as several other crowd favorites like the Wacky Wheeler, dozens of festive clowns, specialty units, clan, and business floats.
The popular Finnegan’s Wake will make a return appearance, as well as T.J. Howell’s Rocket Cycle, which made its first appearance in last year’s parade.
Saturday’s forecast calls for sun, with a high of 40 degrees and relatively mild winds.
Hart says weather is a big factor for the parade.
“The parade goes on regardless of weather,” said Hart. In 31 years of parades, there was only one year where 20 inches of snow forced the club to postpone the parade by a week. That was 1997.
“Weather plays a big part in how happy people are going to be,” she said.
“I watch the weather all week long, but we can’t change it, you just deal with it. Obviously snow and rain is the worst case scenario, and sunshine is the best.”
The process of planning, contacting people, taking entries, and organizing for the parade begins a year in advance. In addition to an immense amount of time, the Shamrock Club spends around $20,000 annually just for parade entries and expenses.
When it comes to parade day, about 20-parade route volunteers work with police to maintain safety protocol and keep the parade running smoothly.
“We meet at least twice with the police chief before the parade to work on planning and once afterward to go over how things went. The New London Police Department has been supportive over the years. They’ve been great to work with,” said Hart.
Hart said the support of the New London business community is huge for the event.
“We have a lot of great businesses in town that support us in a number of ways,” she said. “Without them we couldn’t do what we do.”