Manchester's St. Patrick's Day parade honors longtime organizers
By DOUG ALDEN New Hampshire Union Leader
DOUG ALDEN/UNION LEADER
Former parade coordinator Bill Biser enjoys his new role as co-grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, an honor he shared with his wife, Mary Ellen.
MANCHESTER — After years of organizing Manchester’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, Bill and Mary Ellen Biser got to lead it this time.
The Bedford couple had the honor of serving as grand marshals Sunday, both donning the traditional green, white and orange sash as they smiled and waved to crowds of people lining both sides of Elm Street.
“It was a different perspective,” Bill Biser said. “I had never been on the review stand before, so I really enjoyed that.”
Biser was the parade coordinator for the previous six years with plenty of help from Mary Ellen, who served as his assistant during her husband’s tenure as coordinator and has held many other organization roles in putting together the parade for the previous 20 years.
Biser was especially happy to share the honor with Mary Ellen in the first parade to feature double grand marshals.
“She deserved it as much as I did, perhaps more so,” Biser said. “I said to the group that nominated me ‘you should nominate her, not me.’ They went with both.”
It was a fitting and popular choice. Bill is the former president of the local Ancient Order of Hibernians and Mary Ellen was a long-time member of the St. Patrick Parade Committee, among many other leadership roles held by both.
This year, the Bisers got to relax and enjoy the celebration. Just a few minutes before the scheduled starting time at noon, Bill said he had a laugh with a parade volunteer.
“I was walking around and I told one of the guys in yellow coats ‘I’m not worried at all, not stressed,’” he recalled with a smile. “As an old parade coordinator, I want to say they put together a really well-run parade — well run!”
Manchester continued its tradition of celebrating the Irish holiday after its official date of March 17. Manchester has been holding the parade on Sundays in late March for years, making it a family-friendly event that doesn’t conflict with celebrations in other communities.
At one time it was held in early March, but organizers switched it to the end of the month for a better chance at spring-like weather rather than worry about the cold and blustery conditions of an extended winter.
On Sunday, the weather cooperated with a crisp, sunny afternoon right up until the Londonderry High School Marching Lancers and Color Guard wrapped it all up as the last performers to reach the end of the parade route at Veterans Park.
Clouds indicating the impending winter storm didn’t arrive until several hours later. Good weather always helps boost attendance and there were crowds of people lining the parade route on both sides of Elm, which took on a bit of a greenish hue from the many celebratory outfits.
Maureen Monaghan of Concord was hard to miss in an oversized, floppy green and white top hat she wore in a cluster with her 15-year-old daughter, Rose, and two nephews all sporting the same headware.
Monaghan said the family used to attend the parade regularly when the children were younger, and all were happy to be back.
“We took a break for a few years and now we’re making it a tradition again,” Monaghan said. “We haven’t noticed anyone with our hats, either, so we’re happy.”