'It will be bittersweet': Past St. Paddy's parade organizers on sidelines in New London

New London - Although they had hoped to organize a parade somewhere in the region in honor of St. Patrick's Day, members of New London Irish Parade Inc. have sipped their last Guinness together.

On Tuesday, the nonprofit that organized and ran the New London Irish Parade for the past three years announced it was dissolving its 501(c)(3) corporation.

But the city will still have a parade on Sunday. The St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee, which organized late last year after the original group sparred with city administration over parades fees and announced it was taking its parade out of town, is hosting a parade at 1 p.m. Sunday. It will feature 45 groups marching a three-quarter-mile route through downtown on Bank, State and Washington streets.

"It will be bittersweet,'' said Marie Friess-McSparran, president of the original parade group, who said she intends to watch Sunday's parade from the sidelines. "I was very proud of the event we put on, very proud of (the) small group of volunteers who were able to pull off our event. We will miss doing it, but it will be a lot of work we won't have to do. ... It will be nice to be just a spectator."

The group was forced to give up its nonprofit status because it was not having a parade this year, and it appeared it would be unlikely it would have a parade next year, she said. A requirement of its nonprofit status was to have an annual parade.

Friess-McSparran, who is also a city councilor, said the group talked with other municipalities about having a parade on Saturday but felt it was too close to New London's parade on Sunday.

"We thought it would be taking away from the excitement in New London,'' she said.

The group did not raise any money this year, and funds left over from the previous year have been donated to various Irish groups, including an Irish step-dancing school and a group that races Irish boats called currachs, Friess-McSparran said. She would not release the amount of money the group dispersed, saying not all of those who will be receiving donations have been notified.

Last year, Friess-McSparran's group and the city could not reach an agreement on the amount of money the city would charge the committee for police and public works services. Under an executive order issued by the mayor earlier in the year, the city started charging for services and required payment in advance.

The two sides were stalled over whether the committee would pay $7,500 for a shorter route than the one used in 2012, or about $4,000 more for a longer route. The committee wanted to keep to the longer route but pay the lower amount.

Sunday's parade is the sixth annual event for the city. It started as a grass-roots effort by Diarmuid Hanafin, Thor Torgerson and others who first marched up State Street during a 10-minute parade on St. Patrick's Day.

Last year, according to Friess-McSparran, 1,000 people marched and upwards of 15,000 watched.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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