MERIDEN — It might be obvious to say it, but a parade at rest is nothing but people waiting in line.
About 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, if you happened to be hanging around the intersection of Parker Avenue and East Main Street, you’d have seen a whole lot of people waiting around for something to happen.
The street was quiet. The closer you got to the beginning of the parade the noise ramped up — police and firefighters taking their positions, bagpipers skirling, drummers tapping out practice tattoos — sort of like an orchestra warming up before the overture.
At 2 p.m. they took off, the line becoming the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, one that wouldn’t have happened save for the efforts of residents who came forward with the funds.
“This is so exciting,” said parade grand marshal Rachel Williams as her car pulled out toward the parade route.
To say Scott McNulty, president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Meriden, was ecstatic would be an understatement.
“We know it is a little cold, but it’s sunny and you can see the turnout,” he said, while strolling down the middle of East Main Street.
He, like many, did not think this day would come, due to the city’s need to cut funding for the event.
“We thought this weekend we’d spend time at the club and reminisce,” he said.
But, all turned out well on Saturday. Mike Perry, a Meriden resident for the past seven years, took up Saint Patrick’s miter and crozier, playing the parade’s eponymous saint.
“It’s been a tradition,” Perry said. “I’m not the first person to do it. We’ve been doing it for the past 12 years. It’s always been a member of the (Ancient Order of Hibernians.) Today you see a lot of old friends and get to go out and converse with everyone. Everyone is so friendly and happy today.”
With Perry in the lead, the ranks swelled with Meriden police and firefighters in dress blues. The Platt High School marching band, resplendent in blue uniforms with gold trim, lent a strong brass element to the parade. A clutch of local politicos, led by U.S Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Mayor Kevin Scarpati, followed, waving to the crowd. The Middletown Police Benefit Association Pipe and Drums were up next, looking smart and sharp.
The son of a Meriden police officer on his own tiny motorcycle, wearing his own perfectly kid-sized uniform, drew some oohs and ahhs from the crowd. The Connecticut Patriots and the Ancient Mariners, a pair of fife and drum corps, brought an old-time flair to the proceedings.
A couple of floats played Irish tunes. Kids from the city’s local sports leagues and a couple of schools were on hand to share in the day.
And the crowd loved it all. Lots of wearing of the green, lots of cheering and waving. Lots of family moments, like the grandfather who held his small grandchild on his lap as he talked about the parade passing by.
Clarence Hayes, the Meriden police chaplain, captured the overwhelming feeling of the afternoon as he made his rounds through the parade ranks.
“This is the community coming together in unity and representing our city, how great Meriden is,” Hayes said. “We are all making a difference here, making it a better city.”
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