March is Irish-American Heritage month and for the last 54 years there’s been a St. Patrick’s Day parade in our city. As tradition goes it’s always on the first Saturday of the month. Our town has been blessed to be a melting pot for many nationalities, yet it’s the Irish who’ve established one of the biggest immigrant populations. It shouldn’t surprise you that our hometown parade is one of the largest held in America.
Our church prides itself in connecting with the community through many outreach projects and building a float for the parade was always exciting. In order to make this happen, a team of dedicated folks gathered and formed a committee fondly known as “The Green Machine.” High-performing and eager to get the project going, they were off to a great start!
As chair for this “well-oiled machine” it was important that every person felt valued. Meetings were planned to be effective and to run smoothly. With time a precious commodity today, we respected our peers by starting and ending each meeting accordingly. We had fun, while completing tasks and building a sense of camaraderie.
The teams’ variety of strengths and skills helped with the fine details needed in building a float. Listening to one another was one of their best qualities. Viewpoints, ideas and opinions were shared; showing a sign of respect. It was refreshing to see that the common goals always came before individual interests.
As parade day was getting closer the “Green Machine” worked their magic! With a strong framework and life-size stand ups, the float was well-made and beautifully decorated. The theme, “100,000 Welcomes!” colorfully resonated throughout the float amongst sparkling and glittering props. It was now ready for the police escort to our designated starting point.
Living in the Northeast, March weather was always a factor. There were a few warm years with bright sun, yet the majority of parade days were not. Often, we braved the rough, windy days. Wind chills well below zero, accompanied snow flurries and blustery conditions.
The group dressed as warmly as possible. Choir robes covered winter jackets and long johns. Fleece lined boots were the footwear fashion that day. Ski hats or muffs protected the ears before leprechaun hats capped off the attire. Hand warmers and gloves worn by all offered some warmth. For those riding on the float, blankets afforded them some additional protection against the cold.
One member of the Green Machine was George. He and his wife, Sally were faithful participants. Years of hard work and wise business decisions rewarded them with financial blessings. Yet one would never know these humble heroes gave generously and quietly to many charitable causes. Yearly, George provided a warehouse for the team to build & store the float. He and Sally ordered pounds of candy for parade giveaways.
On parade day, with over 30 folks walking or riding, Trinity Memorial Church proudly represented our community. The team that worked so effortlessly had become more like family. With Pipe bands playing and Irish dancers performing, we rounded the bend to see thousands of parade goers cheering us on. Donned in Irish eye wear, head-boppers and metallic necklaces, plenty of bling was given to the crowds. Overflowing candy buckets brought smiles to children’s faces as sweet treats were passed out. Elderly people lined up in wheelchairs with hands held up was all the thanks we needed.
Our sound technician pumped out the Irish melodies that resonated with the crowd. “Be Thou My Vision” and “Oh Danny Boy” will forever reminded me of Parade day.
The parade was a success and we gathered back where it all started. Coming in from the freezing cold, there was a waft in the air that enticed us to head towards the dining room. Within minutes the kitchen crew greeted us with mugs of rich hot coffee and creamy cocoa! As our feet UN-thawed we enjoyed steaming winter soup and crusty garlic bread, comfort food at its finest!
As I looked around the room I saw many Irish eyes that were smiling. Maybe some of them were just watering from the cold, but every person who had the chance to participate, was so glad that they did. We identified a need in the community and showed folks that we cared.
It’s been a few years since our last parade. George, who faithfully walked the route is now celebrating parade day in heaven. He’ll be remembered as the driving force for the “Green Machine.”
Tom, part of our team and firefighter always checked the parade route and kept our streamers away from the power lines. Sadly, he is no longer with us and we will miss him too.
One of my greatest takeaways is to remember that people want to be a part of something special. Don’t hesitate to ask for help for fear of being a burden. Often, the opportunity to serve is a gift in itself!
In the book “All That I Had”, Catherine’s volunteer work made a difference in the lives of many. At the age of 97 she continues to help others. Catherine would be too modest to say, but was recently issued a proclamation by the Mayor. The honor bestowed on her for many years of volunteer service and dedication. It is a social activity for her, but more importantly, volunteering gives Catherine a sense of purpose. Like Catherine, we can all make a difference even in some small way.
“May good luck be with you, wherever you go, and your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.”
This St. Patrick’s Day, declare yourself Irish and have some fun. (Within the CDC Guidelines!)
Thank you, readers for taking the time to read my article and for your wonderful responses!
*This article is dedicated to George and Tom who we will always be remembered with gratitude*