Pittsburgh’s 2021 Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day Parade Big Success
By J. Mac McCafferty, Parade Chairman
Pittsburgh annually holds the highest ranked St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the United States, as listed by Niche.com. For the past two March seasons, that was not possible as a result of COVID-19. After the parade was cancelled in 2020 three days before the parade, all were disappointed.
The parade committee still marched with about ninety committee members after their traditional Catholic Mass at St. Patrick’s Church in the Strip District. The 2020 parade was held without spectators, except for the few that just so happened to on the sidewalks along the parade route.
It was decided by the parade committee in January of 2021 that the pandemic had not improved enough to hold the parade again in March but asked the City of Pittsburgh to “postpone” the parade to a later date. On March 13, 2021, a small contingent of committee members marched the parade route to keep the tradition alive.
The ½ Way date selected was September 18, 2021, with the hope that mass vaccinations would have taken care of the pesky virus. Unfortunately, it didn’t. During that time, the parade leadership was in constant communication with Mayor Bill Peduto’s office and the Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, along with the Allegheny Health Department. We did not want to hold a parade if it would be a public health risk. After careful consideration and advisement, it was decided to go forward with the parade.
This parade was the smallest since the blizzard parade of 1993, about one third the size of a typical parade, with around 100 entries and attracting close to 100,000 spectators. The weather was brilliant, with sunny skies and 82 degrees.
Dancing with the Stars
Shovlin Academy of Irish Dance was the biggest star of the parade, winning the Grand Marshal Best Over-all Entry as well as winning the best Senior Irish Dancers and the best Junior Irish Dancers. Shovlin also went on to entertain crowds in Market Square’s Family Fair in the Square.
The Pittsburgh Ceili Club was selected as the Thomas Donohue Award for the best adult Irish Dance Group. Another outstanding act was the Carnegie Mellon Pipes and Drum Band, winning the Thomas J. Donohue Award, given to the Best Pipe Band. Pittsburgh Firefighters Memorial Pipe Band took home runner up.
The Greater Pittsburgh Emerald Society was selected with the best drum major. The Taylor Allderdice High School Band took honors as the Mayor’s Award for the best marching band from the City of Pittsburgh, decked out in their green and black uniforms.
Dan “the Bicycle Man” Frazier won the St. Patrick Inspired Award. Sean McBride AOH Division 32 took home the Sara Madigan Award for the Best Overall Irish Entry with their group carrying flags representing all thirty-two Irish County flags. Irish Setters won the Best Animal Group. The Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Mounted Officers were the runner-up in this category. The remainder of the winners are listed at the end.
Overall, the reviews were positive for the parade. Vince, his wife and two children, recent transplants from Dublin, Ireland said, “This parade was brilliant! We didn’t expect to see this.”
The parade committee should be very proud. Many thanks were given on social media for holding the parade. It was a family-based crowd, even more than usual. Lois and Jim Longo traveled from the North Carolina Outer Banks for the parade; they haven’t missed one for decades, even after moving from the shore. Lois said they “had a blast” and “were glad we made the eight-hour drive.”
There were many acts usually participating in the parade absent for various reasons but there was plenty of entertainment that did make it. The only other cities we were aware of that had a parade were Scranton, PA and Providence, RI. These two cities held their parade on the same day.
Best of Show Winners
The Jack Gavin Award (Best Overall New Entry): Dance Inc.; The Mary Long Award (Best Marching Irish Women: LAOH Division 23; Runner-up: LAOH Division 11; The Robert W. Kennedy Award (Best Marching Irish Men): Jack Kehoe AOH Division 1 (Girauldville); Best Senior Non-Irish Marching Group: Teamsters Local 249; Best Drill Team: Steel City Angels; Best Musical Group: Steel Line Drums; Runner-up: AOH Division 4; Best Commercial Float: Pittsburgh Brewing; Runner-up: Flynn’s Tires; Best Non-commercial Float: USS Requin Submarine Base USS V1; Runner-up: Steel City Fins