Week-early St. Patrick's Day parade in Norwich finds many ready to celebrate

Norwich - The decision to schedule Norwich's first St. Patrick's Day parade a week early appears to have paid off, as organizers have received commitments from 52 groups, including two pipe bands, a horse-drawn float, local celebrities and even a re-enactment of a visit by President Lincoln.

The inaugural Norwich St. Patrick's Day Parade and Street Festival will step off at 1 p.m. Sunday from Ferry Street off Main Street. The parade will meander along downtown streets and return to Main Street.

Once the parade concludes, a street festival centered at the Main Street block at Courthouse Square will run until 5 p.m. with live music, free children's activities and at least 16 vendors offering food, drink, desserts and novelties. Harp & Dragon Irish Pub will have a beer tent set up in the street. Open containers of purchased beer only will be allowed in the festival grounds.

Parade organizers announced short-notice plans to launch a St. Patrick's Day parade in Norwich on Jan. 9 and decided to hold it a week early to attract Irish-themed participants while not conflicting with other major St. Patrick's Day parades in the state.

It worked, parade committee member Maria Toth said. Among those committed to the Norwich parade are the Mystic Highland Pipe Band, the New London Firefighters' Pipes and Drums, and the Gray School of Irish Dance of Old Lyme, the New England and national champion dance troupe.

Miss Connecticut, Kaitlyn Tarpey, will ride in a green convertible driven by Patrick Brady of Bozrah. Norwich Regional Technical High School will drive a "green" float touting clean energy.

"They've been very involved in the parade," Toth said of the Norwich Tech students. "And they created the scepter for our grand marshal."

Supervisory State's Attorney for Norwich Thomas M. Griffin was named as parade grand marshal in January.

The New London Ancient Order of Hibernians, founded in 1871, will participate in the parade, and the New London Currach Rowers will display their traditional Irish fishing boat during the parade and street festival afterward.

Hall Communications, owner of four local radio stations, will bring up the rear of the parade with a horse-drawn float carrying radio personalities.

March 9 might not be St. Patrick's Day, but it is the 154th anniversary of presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln's visit to Norwich in 1860. City Historian Dale Plummer hopes to make that date an annual Lincoln commemoration with lectures and forums.

But rather than compete with the inaugural parade and street festival, Plummer and Lincoln re-enactor Lewis Dube instead will march in the parade and greet spectators along the way.

"We're hoping Mary Todd Lincoln will join us as well," Plummer said.

c.bessette@theday.com

Norwich St. Patrick's Day parade and street festival

Sunday traffic and parking restrictions:
At 10:30 a.m., the area around Franklin Square will be closed to allow marchers and vendors to assemble and set up.
Temporary traffic restrictions will be in place along the parade route. The parade will begin at 1 p.m. from Ferry Street into Franklin Square, west onto Main Street to Franklin Street, north on Franklin Street, west on Willow Street, south on Chestnut Street, south on Broadway, east on Main Street to City Landing, where the parade ends.
The street festival will begin at about 2 p.m. on Main Street from Courthouse Square to Market Street.
An on-street parking ban will run from 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m. Temporary traffic rerouting will start at 10:30 a.m. All downtown parking garages will be open and free.
For a map of available parking garages and parking lots, visit: www.norwichparade.com.

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