HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – In Holyoke Wednesday night, it was all about highlighting the contributions of a local citizen, who has stepped up to help organize an annual event in the city!

The Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Committee announcing the 57th Citizenship Award recipient this Wednesday evening. The Citizenship Award is given at the Elks Lodge in Holyoke, to a person or organization, that may be of non-Irish descent and has made a big difference to the Parade and parade committee. This year the award went to Bill Harbilas, who has helped manage Holyoke’s largest fundraiser, the annual Holyoke St. Patrick’s Road Race, for nearly 30 years.

“Billy working behind the scenes, he’s really an unsung hero for us each and every year, and we are so excited to honor him this year,” said Hayley Dunn, President of Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Committee.

“When you look at the list of past citizenship award winners, and to think that I’m in the same place as them is just humbling to me,” added Harbilas.

Since 1977, Harbilas has developed and managed races, such as the popular “Talking Turkey” and “Power of Horses” 5K Run/Walk that benefits the Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) in Holyoke. A number of marathons have been run by Harbilas, including Boston, New York City, Honolulu, and Chicago. In recognition of his accomplishments on and off the course, he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Western Mass Runners Hall of Fame. 

He was a close friend of Tommy Leonard, who founded the Falmouth Road Race and was the 2009 recipient of the Parade’s Citizenship Award. As a retired hydro maintenance operator from Holyoke Gas and Electric, Harbilas is currently a senior member of the Holyoke Water Works Commission. He is married to Sally (Rohan), whose grandfather served as the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade’s first Grand Marshal, Thomas F. Rohan.

Each year, thousands of people turn out for Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Parade. In 2024, it’ll be on March 17th, with the 10K road race taking place a day before.

Local News

Kayleigh Thomas is a digital reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2022. Follow Kayleigh on Twitter @kayleighcthomas and view her bio to see more of her work.