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Weather can’t dampen Irish spirit at parade, festivities

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
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Posted 3/11/23

No blarney needed — despite the wet snow and cold temperatures, happy leprechauns galore came out to make their way down Genesee Street during Utica's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.

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Weather can’t dampen Irish spirit at parade, festivities


UTICA — No blarney needed — despite the wet snow and cold temperatures, happy leprechauns galore came out to make their way down Genesee Street during Utica's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade Saturday morning.

Known as the third largest in New York State, veterans and newcomers alike observed the "wearing of the green."

According to the parade's website, the Utica St. Patrick’s Day Parade had its humble beginnings, starting with a small group of Irishmen marching down the Historic Brewery and Arts District.

Almost 200 years later, from the time John C. Devereux was grand marshal, the tradition lives on. More than 5,000 marchers from across the state stepped off from Oneida Square and headed north on Genesee Street to greet spectators with their music, candy and trinkets, and huge smiles.

The Utica St. Patrick’s Day Parade is known as one of Utica’s largest community events with over 30,000 viewers. And each year, judges decide the winners from five different categories: Marching Unit, Vehicle, Fire Department, Pipe Band and Other.

Serving as grand marshal this year was Colleen Kain Martin! Colleen, who has been a long-time contributor to the Irish community. She was the past vice-president/current member of the LAOH, a Provincial Delegate of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, and local branch secretary of Craobh Dugan O'Looney. She has also dedicated years helping plan the annual Great American Irish Festival and served several years as special events coordinator for the Utica St. Patrick’s Day Parade, among other contributions.

For many, like a group of adjunct professors from Mohawk Valley Community College who participated in their own run/walk just prior to the parade, it was their first time experiencing Utica's great, long-time Irish tradition.

"This is the first time being in the parade, but we actually want to beat the parade," the group agreed.

"I will be picked up by a float, and I'm hoping it will be K-Rock," said Mindy Reeder before walking with her adjunct friends.

Meghan Fahey and Caitlin McCann, representing Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS), were dreaming of some hot cocoa at the finish line as they waited in the cold with their float for the start of the 10 a.m. parade. It was also their first go at Utica's famous Irish festivity.

"We wanted to do this for fun, and we're very excited to be here," said Fahey.

McCann said it helped show that MVHS 'is part of the community and helping support a community celebration."

Rick and Chris Busey woke up at 4:30 a.m., and hit the road by 5:08 to make their way to Utica from Ticonderoga in Essex County with their Irish Setter, Bailey. They were marching with the Dog Breeds of Ireland group, which is where they got Bailey.

"I lived here 40 years ago, but this is our first parade," said Rick Busey. "The Dog Breeds of Ireland is where we got Bailey from, so they asked us if we'd be in the parade to help represent them."

For the Happy Hags Dance Troupe, it was their third time trading in their traditional Halloween orange for leprechaun green.

"This is our third St. Patrick's Day Parade and we plan to keep on going," said one of the Hags. "We'll be doing some modified dancing down Genesee Street. It's all about making people smile. As we're getting out of winter and going into spring, we want to make people come out and smile. Laughter is the cure for the soul."

And Country Suburban Heating & Air Conditioning in Utica are long-time participants in the parade, having taken part for 15 years — as long as they've been in business, said Harry Gee.

"We try to go bigger and better every year," he said.

Meanwhile, spectators sporting leprechaun hats and shiny gold and green beads were all smiles, despite the flakes raining down, as today's moments brought back special memories.

"I remember coming to this parade all the time when I was little," said 17-year-old Jeremy Brady, a senior at Proctor High School. "I'm Irish so I wanted to be here and enjoy this with my friends. It's a cool experience and it was definitely worth coming."

See  more Daily Sentinel photos here.


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