In addition to celebrating all things Irish, this year’s Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade will offer the emotional opportunity to honor some living heroes from World War II.
The special tribute to America’s Greatest Generation has been a long time coming, said Parade Committee Chairman Desmond Keogh.
“We always wanted to honor our veterans in a very special way,” he said. Because this year marks the 75th anniversary of the end World War II, as well as the 15th anniversary of the Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade, it was fitting, he explained. The tribute also encompasses the parade’s theme of Embracing Awareness, Empowerment and Unity.
“We owe so much to our veterans – none more so than World War II veterans, the Greatest Generation,” Keogh said.
Parade organizers have been corresponding with veterans’ organizations on and off Cape Cod, and as of mid-February Keogh said, he received confirmations that seven World War II veterans will participate in the parade, including one gentleman who is 100 years old. He said more WWII veterans may be joining the ranks, as he continues to reach out in the coming weeks. The parade date is March 7.
A few of the World War II veterans have stated that they wish to march in the parade and will do so for at least part of the 2.1 mile route, barring any health issues, Keogh said. Others will ride in a special trolley car at the front of the parade. Keogh said the entire contingent of World War II veterans will be designated as this year’s official grand marshals, leading the parade, followed by veterans from later wars and their organizations.
The World War II veterans will be honored on the eve of the parade as well, during the Grand Marshal Awards presentation dinner at Alberto’s Restaurant in Hyannis. The evening will include awards for the veterans, along with scholarship awards to local students, Keogh said. Find more information about the parade, the dinner and fundraising events at the Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade website.
Scheduling the Yarmouth parade a full 10 days before St. Patrick’s Day allows revelers to celebrate on Cape Cod for one weekend and then travel to Boston or elsewhere for more festivities the following weekend. It also allows the Cape Cod parade to attract high-demand bands and marching groups who might be locked into other events on the weekend closer to March 17.
Parade organizers are still receiving inquiries from potential marchers, but Keogh said he expects some 600 participants and 40,000 or more spectators at this year’s event. He said more information – and some surprises – will be reveled on the Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade website.
Among the confirmed participants are at least 20 floats, eight marching bands, including the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums, the NYPD Pipes and Drums, the Irish American Police Officers Association of Pipes and Drums, the Brian Boru Pipe Band, and the Barnstable High School Marching Band. Also participating in the parade: The Yarmouth and Falmouth Minutemen, Clydesdales, the Snow Queen and Princess, and the Yarmouth Barnstable Lions Club (with their 12-foot tall inflatable float Dan D. Lion). Keogh said there are also numerous community groups from across Cape Cod. The parade begins at 11 a.m. from the Bass River Sports World complex on Route 28 and proceeds westward for 2.1 miles along Route 28 to the intersection of Higgins Crowell Road.
Last year’s Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade paid a special tribute to slain Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon, with the late officer’s canine companion Nero marching alongside Grand Marshal Peter B. McClelland, the Yarmouth Police K9 officer who trained the dog and nursed him back to health.
“We on the Parade Committee made a conscious decision to honor people who are the real heroes in our community,” Keogh said in an email. “People have really embraced this, as is borne out by the thousands (and growing numbers) who show up in any weather each year.”
Keogh noted that the “parade is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds, getting bigger every year.” He said it is now viewed as one of the premier parades in New England, drawing people from all over Cape Cod and beyond. Many visitors reserve their hotel rooms and other accommodations a year in advance, and local hotels have stepped up to offer St. Patrick’s Parade weekend discounts for the weekend of March 7-8.
Yarmouth Irish Festival
Parade day is also the date for Yarmouth’s annual Irish Festival – a family celebration with Irish food, crafts, music and entertainment, held at the old Yarmouth Drive-In site on Route 28 (across from Captain Parker’s Pub). Festival organizer Patrick McDonough said the event offers celebrants a chance to turn Yarmouth’s popular parade day into an even larger event – ultimately staying overnight and driving home on Sunday.
This year’s festival will add an element of comedy in the form of Boston funnyman Steve Sweeney. He’ll be performing in a lineup that includes Irish music from Devri, The Silver Spears, Keohane and Kenneally, Slainte and DJ Sean O’Toole. The event will be held under a large heated tent to keep revelers warm in any weather, McDonough said.
The Yarmouth Irish Festival begins at 11 a.m., with gates opening at 10 a.m. Parking is available at the old Drive-In site. Admission is $5 (advance) and $10 at the gate. Children under the age of 12 are admitted free. Find more information at the Yarmouth Irish Festival website.
Andy Tomolonis is a nonfiction author, travel writer and multimedia journalist.