Could Greater New London have more than one Irish parade?

Today is the day ... drum roll please ... when we could learn whether there will be more than one St. Patrick's Day parade in and around New London this year.

By way of recap, you might remember that the nonprofit group that has been sponsoring New London's popular parade in recent years - New London Irish Parade Inc. - voted back in September to move the event out of the city.

The group, headed by City Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran, said it was having a hard time negotiating a permit fee for the parade with the city, to abide by Mayor Finizio's new executive order decreeing that the sponsors of all parades and special events pay their own way.

The story here can take on a political tinge, since many contend the disagreement stems from bad blood between Friess-McSparran and Finizio.

Or you can skip the political spin and focus on the competing efforts to conjure up the green around New London.

When the original parade group withdrew, organizers said they would try to put on a parade in a neighboring community, one that might be more agreeable about its fees.

The decision by New London Irish Parade Inc. to abandon the city left a parade void, which a group endorsed by the mayor quickly filled.

Indeed, the new parade group, sponsored by the Downtown New London Association, seems to be going full speed in putting together its first parade, scheduled for Sunday, March 17. They have agreed to a permit fee for the city of $7,500.

The new New London parade, no matter how successful this year, would still have a lot of work ahead to catch up with the granddaddy of Irish parades around here, the annual extravaganza sponsored by the Mystic Irish Parade Foundation. Mystic's parade is scheduled for Sunday, March 24.

The original New London parade group, meanwhile, has still not announced its plans, with St. Patrick's Day just a little over six weeks away.

I caught up this week with Richard Mastrandrea, vice president of the group, who said they may have something to announce today.

Mastrandrea said the group has been in talks with neighboring communities. He said an event might be held March 16, the day before New London's new parade.

I later spoke with Friess-McSparran, the president of the group, and she sounded surprised when I told her Mastrandrea implied there might be an announcement soon about a March 16 parade.

She said she wasn't familiar with all the negotiations involving the nonprofit group. But she suggested that whatever is being planned might fall short of a full parade.

"Different committee members have been working on different things," she said. "I think we are committed to doing something to celebrate St. Patrick's."

Does that mean a parade?

"Like I said, there are different committees working on different things," Friess-McSparran answered, ducking the question as deftly as a parade marcher might avoid the droppings of a horse up front.

But maybe today we will know whether parade two is in the offing somewhere around New London.

This is the opinion of David Collins


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