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Hundreds gather to celebrate postponed St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Irish-American community gathers for cultural event Saturday, postponed from March

The sound of drumbeats and sirens rang through the air as hundreds of people descended upon Smith Street for the Providence St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sept. 18.

The parade, which usually takes place on St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, was canceled earlier this year due to COVID-19 concerns. Instead, it was replaced by a virtual celebration where organizers committed to rescheduling the in-person parade for six months later, provided sufficient vaccination rates and an improved COVID-19 situation. 

The Providence St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been a tradition for decades, but the parade took on its modern form 27 years ago when the owner of Patrick’s Pub, Patrick Griffin, revitalized it, according to PJ Fox, vice president of the executive committee organizing the event.

The parade left at noon from the intersection of Wyndham Avenue and Smith Street and ended at the Providence State House nearly 90 minutes later. Each year, the parade honors several designated members in the Irish-American community as Grand Marshals. 

Many of the attendees this year had participated in the IGT Downtown 5k or the St. Patrick’s 5k earlier in the day and stayed afterward to watch the parade. 

There were between 350 and 400 people in the parade and about 70 groups, including local bands, volunteer firefighters, reenactment groups and youth groups, Fox said.

“Over the years, we’ve made a real effort to make sure that the parade is inclusive,” Fox added. “Smith Street, like all neighborhoods in Providence, has changed over the years and we want to celebrate that diversity too.” 

It was important to find a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because “the Irish, like most immigrant groups coming to the United States, have struggled,” Fox said. “Getting together is a time to really celebrate that perseverance and the strides that folks have made in this country.”

Considering the ongoing pandemic, organizers were careful to take health precautions for the parade. There were sanitation stations placed in congregation areas such as Patrick’s Pub, and beverage stations were moved outside, Fox said.

Despite the postponement, parade attendees said they enjoyed the event.

Pam Fotopoulos and Michelle Lambert have been coming to the Providence St. Patrick’s Day parade for over 10 years, calling it one of their “favorites.” Lambert said she appreciates the camaraderie of the parade, adding that “it’s a family event.”

Josh Wonjar, member of the reenactment group Steven’s Independent Artillery, which performs in the parade every year, said he was initially disappointed upon hearing the news about the parade’s postponement. “But we were happy to find out it was gonna happen again and take place,” Wonjar said, calling the parade itself “super fun” and a “great community.” 

“We understood why it happened, but it was sad because it was such a big family event, so we were glad they were able to reschedule,” said Chris DeCastro, who added he was related to one of the Grand Marshals. “It’s great to bring everyone together for something so joyous.”


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