Mahoning Valley St. Patrick’s Day Parade, now in its 39th year, planned for March 12
By Jordyn Grzelewski
“May the Irish be with you.”
That’s the theme of the 2017 Mahoning Valley St. Patrick’s Day Parade that takes place next Sunday.
The “Irish” runs deeply with the four people who are being honored at this year’s parade. All four have played crucial roles in keeping this local Irish tradition alive over the years.
This year’s honorees are: Grand Marshal Edward J. Reese, Lord Mayor of Kilkenny Kevin McGuire, Ockerman Award recipient Bob Hankey, and Cleary Award winner Sharon Sabatka.
“These people are special because they’ve always contributed to the parade, and they’ve kept it going for the 39 years we’ve had it,” said parade President Joyce Kale-Pesta. “And they’re great Irishmen. They love their Irish heritage.”
Reese is the co-founder and CEO of EDM Management Inc. and a former Mahoning County commissioner.
“The grand marshal is a person in the Irish community who is held in high esteem for honoring their Irish heritage,” said Kale-Pesta.
The Reeses have been generous financial supporters of the parade over the years, Kale-Pesta said. Reese has been named an Ancient Order of Hibernians Irish Person of the Year, and in 2008 he and his wife, Diane, were named Lord Mayors of Kilkenny for the Mahoning Valley St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Kevin McGuire of Liberty will serve as Lord Mayor of Kilkenny for the 2017 parade. McGuire is the co-founder of Mahoning Valley InfusionCare Inc., which later was named mvi HomeCare Inc. McGuire and his wife, Kathy, as well as mvi HomeCare, are longtime sponsors of the parade.
The Lord Mayor of Kilkenny distinction is named in honor of Youngstown’s “Little Kilkenny,” an area that during the wave of Irish immigration to the U.S. in the 19th century became home to many of the city’s Irish, Kale-Pesta explained.
The 2017 Ockerman Award recipient is Bob Hankey, who has served as a parade marshal since 1990. That award is named after Bill Ockerman, the parade’s first head marshal.
“Bob has been a faithful member of our marshal group and has never missed a parade since he began,” the parade website notes.
This year’s Cleary Award, which traditionally honors members of the parade committee, goes to Sharon Sabatka. A profile of Sabatka posted on the parade website describes her as a someone who has “worked tirelessly on the parade committee and is well deserving of this honor.”
The parade begins at 1 p.m. from McClurg Road. It continues down Market Street, ending at Southwoods Place. Trophies for Best of Parade and Best Irish Theme will be handed out, as well as awards for Best Themed Float, Best Band, Best Drum Line, Best Novelty Unit and Best Color Guard.
Some new features of this year’s event include a pre-parade Owens Construction BMX Stunt Team performance (the team also will join the parade), and the U.S. Navy Band performing in the procession.
“We’re very excited about the Navy band. It’s the first time they’re going to be there,” said Kale-Pesta.
“It’s going to be a great day – weather holding,” she said.