MERIDEN — Organizers of the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade are still set on holding a parade later this year if and when COVID-19 restrictions are loosened.
“We’re still bound and determined to do the parade, whether it’s in June or July or September,” said parade co-chair Jim Finley from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish-American organization that runs the parade.
After Gov. Ned Lamont issued a ban on large events last month, the local AOH chapter opted to postpone its 47th annual parade, originally scheduled for March 21, to May 16. With Lamont’s social distance orders extended to at least May 20, the parade can’t be held May 16.
“We’re going to have to set a new date in consultation with the city and the guidance that they’re getting from the state and the feds, but right now we don’t know what date that would be,” Finley said.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati said he’d prefer the AOH cancel this year’s parade and look ahead to next year.
“Personally, I think it'd be better attended if it was held around the time of the year that the holiday falls,” he said.
Given the continual increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Meriden and Connecticut, it’s hard for Scarpati “to even comprehend loosening restrictions,” especially for large events.
“From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem like events are going to be on the high priority list for the governor’s phase one of reopening,” he said, adding officials have to consider the possibility of another round of COVID-19 cases later this year.
“We also don't know what's going to happen in the fall with regard to the coronavirus,” he said.
For a second consecutive year, organizers announced a few months before the parade that it was in jeopardy due to lack of funding. They then scrambled to raise the $5,000 needed to hold it.
Because the small businesses the AOH relies on for donations are being hurt by the pandemic, Scarpati argued the AOH should consider saving the donations for next year’s parade.
Finley said organizers want to hold the parade this year to keep the “Meriden tradition” alive and not let the community and donors down.
“Part of it is we want to show our resiliency — our ability to deal with something that no one could ever plan for and still keep a proud tradition going in Meriden,” Finley said.
Overcoming this adversity, Finley said, would be an homage to Irish heritage.
“Many of our families came over from Ireland having survived The Great Famine, and the trials and tribulations when they got to this country — many were not warmly received,” he said. “Part of being an Irish-American is we’re American first, but we have that Irish tenacity to overcome all obstacles.”
Finley added a parade later this year would give the community a chance to come together for a celebration.
“Regardless of when this is over this year, people will be anxious to sort of reestablish norms, reestablish the pace of life that we had prior to the virus,” he said. “And I think everybody will be ready for a big party.”