In a year marked by rising and falling cycles of COVID-19, it seems fitting to honor the people who have pressed on through hardships — heading to work each day throughout the pandemic, providing essential services for others, and helping to keep the economy chugging along.
That’s why organizers of this weekend’s Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade chose to honor all the region’s frontline workers instead of selecting a single grand marshal.
The parade, which is set to step off at 11 a.m. Saturday, was moved to September after the March event was canceled due to concerns about COVID-19. But with more people getting vaccinated across Massachusetts and the state lifting restrictions on public gatherings in May, the event was rescheduled.
So, on Saturday, when spectators gather along Route 28, they’ll get a chance to thank the frontline workers who have played such a critical role in all our lives.
It’s not just the police, fire, and EMS first-responders said Parade Committee Chairman Desmond Keogh. It’s grocery workers, UPS, FedEx, and U.S. Postal Service employees. It’s the tradespeople who worked on your cars and fixed things in your house; employees who cleaned the floors and cooked meals in nursing homes and hospitals; those who delivered food and groceries; and all the essential workers who went to their jobs every day and kept the economy going through the ups-and-downs of COVID-19.
“These people were putting themselves in danger, above and beyond what their job description was,” Keogh explained. “They faced their work every day, dealing with the unknown aspects of COVID. And that’s what our goal is — to honor all of them.”
Amid the traditional pipe bands, color guard units, and civic groups, Saturday’s parade will include nurses, grocery store workers, and other essential employees. Think Shaw’s and Star Market, Stop & Shop, The Mass. Nurses Association, Cape Cod Healthcare, the Yarmouth Senior Services, and more.
“This is huge,” Keogh said. “You’re going to have the workers walking, and the families will see them walking, and so you’ll have a lot of stopping and waving at each other as people say thank you to this year’s honorees.” He said the myriad groups might slow down the pace a bit, but he still expects the parade to wrap up in less than two hours.
A SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER
September was the right month for rescheduling the popular event because it wasn’t in the middle of summer, said Parade Committee Chairman Desmond Keogh. “It was just a good time to support Cape Cod businesses and Yarmouth businesses in particular.”
Organizers ruled out Labor Day weekend, then decided against Sept. 11 because that was a day for reflecting on lives lost to the terrorist attacks 20 years ago. Planners settled on Sept. 18, and by coincidence, that weekend actually marks the mid-point in the year between last St. Patrick’s Day and the next one.
The parade committee also decided this year was a good time to reward those who have supported the event for the past 15 years, allowing floats that advertise local businesses to participate for free. Keogh said the response from businesses and the community has been strong, and people are looking forward to a chance to cheer and feel normal again.
PIPE BANDS, BEWSTER WHITECAPS, MOTORCYCLES AND MORE
Beyond the essential workers, there will be bands, motorcycles, dog handlers, Scouts, athletic teams, civic groups, and marching units. All told, organizers have registered more than 60 groups to march in the parade, and there are a few surprise additions coming in at the last minute, Keogh said.
Highlights include Clydesdales, stilt-walkers, and three pipe bands — the Irish American Police Officers Association Pipes and Drums, the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums, and the Highland Light Scottish Pipe Band. The Brewster Whitecaps will be present, along with their Cape Cod League 2021 championship trophy; the Mass. State Police Mounted Unit will be riding on horseback; Big Nick’s Riders for the Fallen will be on motorcycles and Jeeps decorated with American flags. Other marchers include multiple police color guard units, the Yarmouth Minutemen, Pirates of Cape Cod, Cape Cod Marine Corps League, and WROL radio in Boston, which will broadcast live from a truck along the parade route. Even Freeman Johnson, the 101-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who marched in the 2020 parade, said he wants to return and walk at least part of the route, Keogh noted.
“I said you’re absolutely welcome.”
Last year’s parade drew an estimated 65,000 to 75,000 people, but Keogh said he’s hesitant to predict the turnout this weekend. Attendance could be anywhere from 20,000 to more than 50,000 he said, depending on the weather. As of Wednesday, the forecast was looking good — a mix of sun and clouds, with temperatures in the 70s.
Whatever the turnout, next year’s parade will return to its normal season in early March. Keogh said organizers are already planning the 2022 event while working out the final details for Saturday. Find out more at the Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade website.
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IF YOU GO
What: Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade.
When: Saturday, Sept. 18, at 11 a.m.
Where: The parade route starts near Skull Island at the intersection of Route 28 and Long Pond Drive in South Yarmouth, and heads west along Route 28 to Higgins Crowell Road in West Yarmouth.
Safety: Masks are not required as the parade is outdoors, but spectators can choose whether to wear them when gathering along the route.
Timing: Marching units may be spaced a little farther apart, so the parade might take a few minutes longer to finish. Still, the 2-mile walk should take less than two hours and be over before 1 p.m.
Note: Some media have reported the parade begins at 8 a.m., but that’s just when the staging area opens for marchers at Skull Island. The actual parade steps off at 11 a.m.
More info online: www.capecodstpatricksparade.com.
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Sponsored in Part by the Town of Yarmouth Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.
Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer, and freelance multimedia journalist.
Photo credit: Teplansky Photography (photos #2, 3, and 4)