HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) — The 2023 Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade will be marching in before we know it. But, before the Parade kicks off on Sunday, March 19, let’s take a look at the history of the long-time western Massachusetts tradition.
Drawing on the Irish heritage of Holyoke from its earliest days known as “Ireland Parish”, the inaugural Saint Patrick’s Parade was hosted on March 16th, 1952 with 25,000 people watching along the parade route. That number grew to 100,000 by 1960, 200,000 by 1975, and reached a peak of over 400,000 in 2011.
The Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Parade showcases prize-winning floats, championship bands from the northeast, and notable celebrities each year. Musical acts include international bands, high school bands, and the famed Philadelphia Mummers String Bands, an annual favorite since 1967.
Beginning in 1955 a Grand Colleen and her court have reigned over the annual parade from a majestic float that carries them along the nearly three-mile parade route. Other local cities also elect their own Colleens and courts and are also represented by police, fire, and dignitaries.
From those modest beginnings, the annual parade has grown into one of the premier outdoor events in the Northeast. Coupled with the Saint Patrick’s Road Race held annually the day before the parade, the Holyoke Saint Patrick’s parade has an economic impact that is in excess of $20 million.
22News is proud to broadcast the 70th annual Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Parade with the sights and sounds of what always seems like the last step out of winter on the way to Spring.
You can catch the parade in its entirety Sunday, March 19, at noon on 22News or online at wwlp.com.