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Yulan St. Patrick’s Day parade on hiatus

By SANDY LONG

YULAN, NY — St. Patty’s Day will still be cause for celebration in the Town of Highland, but a longstanding parade and brunch have been cancelled this year in an attempt to return the event to its community roots and away from the reportedly wild time it has become.

Since its startup more than three decades ago, the popular town event has grown well beyond its original intent, where townspeople lined the street, greeting one another following the long cold winters and enjoying the passage of home-built floats and community organizations marching by.

In its earlier days, the fun was festive but respectful and family-oriented, but in recent years, crowds have swelled, along with acts of rowdiness and disrespectful behavior, fueled in part by the alcohol that seems to go hand-in-hand with the holiday.

Following the 2008 parade, Highland’s chief constable, Mike Walton, reported on the increase in problematic behavior exhibited by some members of the crowd. Town supervisor Tina Palecek, while participating in the parade, witnessed a man relieving himself on a resident’s lawn. Others have reported similar events, and some residents have stopped attending in order to avoid the potential problems.

All of it has caused the committee that organizes the event to make the painful decision to try canceling the parade and its Grand Marshall Brunch, in hopes that a sense of balance can be restored for possible future parades. “It was a very hard decision,” said Kathryn Sweeney, one of the event’s longtime organizers. “We love the parade. We are all heartsick.”

Parade-goer and area resident Eileen Hennessy was both surprised and saddened to hear the news of the cancellation. “That’s so depressing,” she said. “People came from all over for the parade.”

Bobby O’Neill, son of long-time parade matriarch Marion O’Neill who actively supported the parade for 27 years and died in 1999, said, “My mother was a woman who made every day a parade, so it was only fitting that she gathered a few good friends and family to march on St. Patrick’s Day in the hamlet. On behalf of my family members Jo-Ellen Pearson, Christine Pageau and Steven O’Neill, we extend our appreciation to the St. Patrick’s Day Committee members, both past and present, and the hard working townspeople who contributed to the parade’s success for so many years. I would like to think that the true spirit of the parade is alive and well and will someday return. I know our Mom is looking down on us with her beautiful smile and her kazoo in hand, shouting “Up Yulan!”

The parade committee has not ruled out the possibility for a smaller scale, more community-focused event in the future. Meanwhile, Sweeney encouraged members of the public to continue supporting area businesses that day, and to attend the Yulan Fire Department’s corned beef and cabbage dinner, which will be held at the Yulan Firehouse on Saturday, March 13.

TRR file photo
This scene from 2007 will not be repeated this year as the Yulan St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been cancelled. (Click for larger version)