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Pandemic slams brakes on St. Pat’s parade — again

BOARDMAN — For the second year in a row, a Mahoning Valley tradition is canceled because of COVID-19.

Organizers decided to cancel this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boardman, said Casey Malone, president of the parade nonprofit.

Multiple factors went into the decision, made Monday evening. Guidelines surrounding COVID-19 contributed, as well as trying to avoid making plans, then undoing them and making refunds.

When the parade organizers canceled last year’s event, Malone said they didn’t think they would have a similar conversation for the 2021 parade.

“I really thought we would be back in order” in terms of the pandemic, which initially is what health officials projected for 2021. “I think a lot of people felt that way, and of course that was not the case.”

Last year when the parade was canceled, it was almost on he big day.

“The year before, we were ready to go” with the parade, but it was canceled last-minute, Malone said.

“There are so many things that go into organizing a parade” that the board didn’t want to have people commit to it, only to have to cancel so close to parade.

STUNG AND SHOCKED

Not only were parade organizers impacted by the decision to cancel last year, but participants, too.

“It stung. We were shocked. We had everything ready to go to build the float,” said Boardman resident Rhonda Donaghue, whose family has participated in creating parade floats for years.

To hear of this year’s cancellation was just as solemn.

“It’s just so disappointing,” said Donaghue on Tuesday.

Her family has built the float for the Burke School of Irish Dance for more than 20 years. Starting when her daughter, now in her 20s, began dancing, it became a family tradition.

As with any other aspect of the pandemic, Donaghue said she feels frustration.

“It’s so frustrating. We love the parade. Stepping off on the parade, it’s so much fun,” she said, especially looking into the waves of smiling spectators.

The Burke dancers dance the length of the parade route nonstop around the float, she added.

“People smile, they cheer. The little kids that dance are so excited because they’re there to have fun,” Donaghue said.

“You might not be Irish, but you’re Irish that day,” she said.

ALTERNATIVE PLAN

The decision to wait until next year for the parade means that the three honorees, Bill Lawson as grand marshal, Judge Scott Hunter as Lord Mayor of Kilkenny, and Kurt Hilderbrand receiving the Ockerman Award, will hold their titles for three years, Malone said.

The group is asking the public to still participate, but on a smaller, safer scale.

People are encouraged to organize parades in their own neighborhoods and to record them.

“We’re asking that it be held on Parade Day, March 14” with a stepoff time of 1 p.m., just like the big parade, Malone said.

Then, they can upload the footage to the group’s Facebook page, Mahoning Valley St. Patrick Day Parade, and the top three videos with the most “likes” will receive $150, $100 and $50.

With patience and luck, the 44th annual Mahoning Valley St. Patick Parade will take place March 13, 2022.

Watch www.mvstpatrickparade.com for updates.

afox@tribtoday.com

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