Crowds Flock To Scranton For Annual St. Patrick’s Parade
SCRANTON — Born in Scotland with an Irish grandfather, Jim McPhee moved to the United States in 1972, and 47 years later, he attended his first St. Patrick’s Parade in the city on Saturday.
The 72-year-old from Dallas wore a special kilt that bore his family’s unique design — a mix of red and green plaid with white and yellow lines. In Scotland, each family name has its own design, he explained. Seeing the city’s downtown exuding so much Irish and Scottish pride was “tremendous,” McPhee said.
“It’s actually first class,” he said. “The parade is a great thing to attend.”
Wrapped in the McPhee-family fabric, Mary Siegel accompanied McPhee to the parade. With sunny skies overhead and spring-like temperatures, “St. Patrick gave us a good day,” she said.
An estimated 130,000 onlookers came out to see the parade, which organizers say is the second largest in the country based on participants per population of the city.
McPhee and Siegel were among the throngs of festively dressed spectators lining Lackawanna County Courthouse Square as they waited for the parade to begin at 11:45 a.m. Soon after, the distant, steady rumble of drums and the wail of bagpipes echoed through the city as more than 12,000 participants paraded through downtown Scranton.
Michael Meyers started playing the bagpipes about 15 years ago when he was “looking for something different to play,” and he marched in the parade with Celtic United Pipes & Drums for the second time Saturday.
“At the time my wife said they sounded nice,” he said.
A decade and a half later, “she thinks they’re rather annoying now,” he added with a laugh.
Playing the bagpipes can be strenuous, and playing in the parade “gives you purpose for the hard work that you put into playing the instrument,” Meyers said. “People get to listen to it, and obviously they enjoy it. That makes us enjoy it even more.”
Bagpipes are Alia Vrabel’s favorite part of the parade. The 7-year-old from Simpson was dressed for the occasion with leprechaun earrings, green hair, green leggings covered in shamrocks and an orange, white and green hat.
Accompanied by her mom, Roisin Kennedy, the two watched the parade from orange and green camping chairs on the corner of Spruce Street and Wyoming Avenue. Alia went to her first parade as a baby, and she’s gone every year since.
Duana Haggerty and Charles Everitt, both of Canadensis, were two specks in a sea of green along North Washington Avenue. Haggerty dressed from head to toe in green — from a green jacket and pants to shamrock sunglasses to a green and white boa draped around her neck. Likewise, Everitt wore a fake green mustache that complemented his black and green cap with wild fake green hair sticking from the top.
“I just love to dress up and come to the parade,” Haggerty said, explaining that the parade represents “the happiness that makes your stress go away. … You just need to have some fun in your life.”
While Everitt’s green hair was fake, Emilee Laing, 11, and her dad, Bill Laing, were committed to green hair. Emilee colored her hair green, and her dad sported a bright green goatee. As they waited for the parade to step off on Wyoming Avenue near Mulberry Street, Emilee recalled her favorite thing about the event: all the free candy.
Other young onlookers were more mischievous as they waited for the parade. Nora Snyder, 12, playfully tooted a large green plastic horn next to her sister’s ear while they sat on bleachers on North Washington Avenue. Bill Snyder, 58, grew up attending the parade, but his mom never let him buy the bellowing plastic horns. This year, he got them for his daughters, Nora and Zoie, 14. The parade gives him a chance to share his childhood with his kids.
“They can still see some of the same things that we saw when we were young and experience the same thing I experienced when I was young,” he said. “The city itself comes alive.”
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As floats and participants made their way through the city, the St. Patrick’s Parade Day Association of Lackawanna County handed out 18 awards:
St. Patrick’s Theme Award — Ancient Order of Hibernians
Professional Performance — Greater Scranton Black Diamonds Pipe Band
Patriotic Theme — Irish Cultural Society
Historical Theme — Victorian Highwheelers
Irish Cultural Heritage — Quiet Man Society
Most Beautiful Award — Gift of Life Donor Program
Irish Music Award — Sword of Light Bagpipe Band
Irish Costume Award — Edward P. Maloney Memorial Pipe Band
Irish Smiles Award — Fidelity Bank
Irish Dancing Award — Emerald Isle Step Dancers
Participation Award — Mount Airy Casino Resort
Scholastic Award — Riverside Marching Band
Founders’ Award — Irem Shrine
Photographers’ Choice Award — Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply
Judges’ Choice Award — Electric City Aquarium & Reptile Den
Scholastic Music Award — West Scranton and Scranton High School Marching Band
Parade Loyalty Award — Young’s Funny Farm
Presidents Award — Penn York Highlanders Bagpipe Band