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What to Expect at This Year’s Parade—and How It Differs from Years Past

We are T-minus three days and counting until the St. Patrick’s Day/Evacuation Day Parade this Sunday, and everything that it entails. Big changes are happening this year, and it’s helpful to know what to expect.

Bryan Bishop, Director of Parade Operations, works in conjunction with the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council (SBAWVC—full disclosure, my husband’s the Treasurer) as well as the newly formed Executive Committee for the Parade. It’s an offshoot of the council with SBAWVC Commander Dave Falvey at the head, as well as participants with parade experience, firefighters, veterans, and even Southie residents so that everyone’s voice has been heard in the process. Bishop has all the details on the parade—the result of a year’s worth of work.

It’s the full parade route!

This is probably the most hotly debated aspect of the parade, and fortunately the weather bodes well—which is the deciding factor for whether the parade ends at East Broadway or continues to Andrew Station, or, as Bishop calls it, “the intersection of Dot and Dot.” The full parade will be 3.6 miles long, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities around town to watch it go by. As usual, West Broadway will likely be the most crowded area.

There’s an opening ceremony.

This is a new televised feature this year, Bishop explains. The flatbed for the ceremony is actually a unit in the parade, and from there, new Mayor of Southie Haley Dillon will proclaim the day officially for the parade, the parade’s Chief Marshall, John Beatty, will to give a speech welcoming Walsh, Baker, and other officials to Southie, and the Irish and American national anthems will play. Bishop will also speak, then the parade will start at 1 p.m. SHARP. NO EXCEPTIONS.

There are 30 more units (participants) than last year.

Last year, there were 90 units marching/driving/riding on horseback/biking along. Now, “there are 122 units, from 4 countries, 6 states, and with every branch of the military represented,” says Bishop. But don’t worry, Bishop’s got a tight organizational structure in place (more on that in a sec) and will penalize units that slow the proceedings. If they mouth off to any of the volunteers or are abusive in any way, the punishment gets worse—a.k.a. they’ll be banned from the parade in perpetuity—so no one’s messing around.

And there’s new and exciting stuff to see.

The crew of the USS Jason Dunham, which docks at Black Falcon Terminal on 2 p.m. Thursday, will be marching in the parade. There’s also bagpipers from Spain, a pro rugby team from Ireland (marching with the New England Freejacks rugby team), and veterans from the Irish Defense Force. Actually, there’s a particularly strong connection to Ireland this year: a cabinet minister and the consulate general from the country are attending too.

The Woodland String Band from Philadelphia is returning to the parade. Bishop explains, “They haven’t been here for a bit, so it’s good to have them back.” A Revolutionary War era British Military unit re-enactment is also marching. Bishop jokes, “King George is sending his representation, and we’ll be asking them to leave at the conclusion of the parade.” And the American Legion is celebrating its centennial. Of course, there’ll be plenty of the fun Irish/Irish American/local businesses/only-in-Southie characters you’ve seen before, too.

Stay tuned—more announcements are still to come!

There’s a new organizational structure.

“In honor of Evacuation Day, the lineup and staging are based on military proceedings,” says Bishop. The first division is the Royal Court, which incorporates the politicians, Mayor of Southie, bands, Chief Marshall, crew of the USS Jason Dunham, and special guests. The second, Veterans Division, includes the Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Francisco Urena as well as the American Legion. After that, divisions three through seven are named after each branch of armed forces—and the units are spread out between each one.

(My husband is one of the division chiefs, so I shall wave hello as he whizzes by in his golf cart, while I usher around family members/make sure no one passes out in our driveway.)

Per usual, open-container laws are still in effect.

Boston’s finest will be out and in full force this year, just like years past, so just obey the law and you’ll have no issues! (she says, remembering past years forlornly). To paraphrase my friend Heather Foley: children live here, so let’s make it a safe environment for everybody.

The core values haven’t changed.

“This is the only parade in world that not only honors St. Patrick’s Day but is also honoring service,” says Bishop. “It’s a mashup between green and red, white, and blue—all of that spirit is in there. There’s patriotism alongside that fun, fundamental frivolity of St. Patrick’s. We’re so blessed to do this in a way that brings honor and dignity to the U.S. Armed Forces with the celebration of Irish culture in Southie and Boston.”

“On Sunday, Southie is everybody’s hometown,” he adds.

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About the Author

Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine J. Igoe is a freelance writer and editor who freely admits she just moved to Southie with her husband in 2017. Loves writing about local food, culture, and space savers, as well as more serious things like mental health. Follow her/send her ideas on Twitter @kjigoe.