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Mystic - Marching bands, bagpipes, and all things green filled downtown for the 10th annual Mystic Irish Parade on Sunday.
Parents pulled wagons in which children sat clapping their hands or waving to the crowd. Fire engines, police cars and Mystic VFW jeeps drove through the streets. Pipes and drums bands made their way through the parade, as onlookers cheered.
Drawing thousands of revelers, the parade on the Sunday after St. Patrick's Day featured acts from across the state and beyond. Schools, cultural institutions, companies, military, police and fire departments all marched.
Among the festive parade-goers was Jackie Johnson, a Baltimore, Md., resident with relatives in Ledyard, who was watching the parade with family from Canada. Johnson's birthday falls on St. Patrick's Day, a fact which always delighted her Irish grandfather, she said.
"They're celebrating my birthday - why wouldn't I be there?" she said with a smile about her reasons for watching the parade.
Johnson remarked on how professional the young people marching in the parade acted.
"You just get the feeling that everyone is having a good time," she said.
Indeed, during the parade many residents cheered and applauded and children ran excitedly to retrieve green necklaces or lollipops distributed by marchers. Irish setter dogs marched through the streets, their tails wagging and coats shining in the sun. Participants from the Shoreline Roller Derby in Groton skated along the parade route.
Seventeen-month-old Briana Hawes was snuggled in her father's arms on the sunny afternoon to watch her first parade. Wearing a green fleece, the toddler pointed out the sights from the band playing bagpipes to a dog that a police officer walked.
"She likes it. She's dancing to all the music" said her father, Patrick Hawes of Colchester.
The parade traveled from Mystic Seaport to the Mystic Art Association for about an hour and 20 minutes.
More than 100 acts participated in the volunteer-run event including the U2 tribute band Joshua Tree while the parade marshal was Groton Town Police Chief Michael Crowley. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, waving to the crowd, also walked in the parade.
Stonington resident Stefan Ambrosch, also the owner of Mango's Wood-Fired Pizza Co. in Olde Mistick Village, said he was out to support the parade. He recalled one year when Clydesdale horses even marched.
"We come every year," he said. "It's always fun."
Richard Walter, a drum major for the Ancient Mariners of Connecticut Fife and Drum Corps, said he enjoys performing in the annual celebration.
"I love entertaining. I love playing the music," he said. "This is a great parade."