LAWRENCE — Ready for St. Patrick’s Day? The organizers of the city’s first parade in years seem to be.
They’ve raised more than $17,000 through private donations, chosen Edward F. “Hoppy” Curran as the grand marshal and have been getting calls from a variety of groups wanting to participate — from marching bands, bag pipers and other civic organizations.
“Schools will play a big part in the parade,” said Lawrence Police Detective Tom Cuddy, who chairs the parade committee. “We were very, very pleased by the turnout and the amount of support we’ve received for the parade.”
The parade’s theme is “Cead Mile Failte” — Gaelic for “A 100,000 Welcomes.”
“This is a long standing Irish theme,” Cuddy said. “This whole parade is showcasing Lawrence to people past, present and future. Much like the Italian feast and Hispanic Week, it brings people to Lawrence and is another way to showcase the city in a positive way,” Cuddy said.
When the committee was looking for someone to lead the parade as the grand marshal, they wanted a local person who was still active in the community.
Curran, a Lawrence native now living in Methuen, served with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and earned a Silver Medal and Gallantry Cross in Vietnam.
He was instrumental in creating a Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Bellevue Cemetery in Lawrence. He event went to Washington, D.C. to research the names of Lawrence servicemen who died in Vietnam.
After erecting the memorial in 1991, the Lawrence Vietnam Memorial Committee continued to be active by hosting a cabaret dance and road race to raise money for scholarships and other charitable events. The group has distributed $100,000 since its inception.
Curran was the director of Veterans Services in Methuen for nine years before retiring in 2007.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade starts at 1 p.m. at the corner of Amesbury and Essex streets, heading up by Claddagh and over the Central Bridge onto Parker Street. Participants will take a left onto Salem Street by St. Patrick Church. The viewing stand will be at Relief’s In, 1 Market St.
Cuddy said the 25-member committee started planning the parade in December, after a three year hiatus due to financial constraints.
While most parade committees start planning their next one as soon as the last one is over, Cuddy is confident the parade will go off without a hitch.
“We’re in a lot better shape than we thought we would be because we didn’t know how large the parade would be and the fundraising needed,” Cuddy said. “The fact that the parade is coming back has brought a lot of excitement.”
He said the committee is made up of firefighters, members of the board of directors at Relief’s Inn, retirees and tradesmen.
The parade will be funded entirely by private donations, Cuddy said. In addition to the money raised on Feb. 7 at a Relief’s In fundraiser, the St. Patrick’s Day parade committee has received a $3,000 donation from Relief’s In, as well as other local businesses. Members of the Police Superior Officers and the Patrolman’s Association will make financial contributions after the parade, Cuddy said.
“Everyone on the committee has a different reason for volunteering, because they remember it as a child, grew up with the parade as a viewer or worker and are glad it’s coming back,” Cuddy said.
Susan Fink, the manager of financial and administrative services for the city’s Community Development Department, agreed.
“I felt something missing and wanted to do my part to bring it back,” said Fink as to why she decided to join the committee after being invited to a meeting.
“We have received so much positive feedback from people wanting to participate and help out. I’m just overwhelmed,” she said.
Fink, who moved to Lawrence while in high school, fondly recalls marching in the parade as a teen with classmates from the now-closed St. Mary High and later bringing her daughter to watch the parade.
“It’s a great way to show your pride (and) honor your heritage,” she said.
“I think it’s great for the city,” agreed Jack Lahey, who chairs the St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon for the local Hibernians.
“There seems to be a renewed spirit and a sense that the city is united again. It (the parade) may be small, but is a big step in the city,” Lahey said.
Cuddy has fond memories of the parade, from marching in it as a student at St. Patrick School to manning the command post as a policeman.
“This is a great event for the Irish and people of all nationalities living in the area. The parade has always brought people together,” Cuddy said.
For information about participating in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, write to email@example.com or call 978-423-8871.
3 Dogz Diner, 13 S. Broadway, on Thursday and Feb. 27 starting at 5 p.m., chicken broccoli, meatballs. Half the proceeds from the bill will be donated to the parade.