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In Manchester, one day's not enough to celebrate St. Patrick's Day

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 25. 2012 10:51PM
The Irish and Irish for a day celebrated Manchester's St Patricks Day Parade on Sunday along Elm Street. (Bruce Taylor/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER -- THE CITY showed its Irish pride Sunday.

Tens of thousands packed Elm Street to watch the 17th St. Patrick's Day Parade's marching bands, military re-enactors, clowns and leprechauns make the 1.3-mile trek through the heart of the city.

The parade is the largest community event in New Hampshire, relying on sponsors and thousands of volunteer hours, said Stephanie McLaughlin, one of the parade's organizers. The New Hampshire Union Leader is a media sponsor for this year's parade.

Grand Marshal John Patrick Jordan said the city's Irish heritage is one of hard work and community-building.

'They came here, right off the boat, and they really made a success of it,' he said.

Jordan is a historian who has spent years researching the Irish population in Manchester. He is a member of the Rev. William J. Shanahan, Division 1, Ancient Order of Hibernians, as well as the order's historian. The Manchester City Library even dedicated a chair to Jordan to honor his efforts to chronicle the city's history.

Jordan marched with his nine children, 16 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Former New Hampshire Union Leader columnist John Clayton was honored for his efforts to highlight the history of the Irish community by being awarded the Thomas J. King award. The award goes to a person either not of Irish heritage, or not Catholic, who has contributed to the betterment of the city.

Clayton said the parade is a perfect example of people celebrating the language, music and traditions of the Irish.

'People need to get past the stereotypical view of St. Patrick's Day as a bacchanal,' he said.

Click here for photos from Sunday's Manchester St. Patrick's Day events.

Among the marchers were members of the Manchester Police Department, who carried a banner reading: 'Our thoughts and prayers are with Dan Doherty and family.' Officer Doherty, who was shot five times Wednesday by a lone gunman, remains at Catholic Medical Center.

Michael Lonergan, the Irish consul general, marched in Sunday's parade - his fifth in the region this month.

'St. Patrick's Day is not a one-day celebration in New England, but three weeks,' he said.

With parades in Boston, New York, Worcester, Mass., and Newport, R.I., among others, the region's many people of Irish descent are able to reconnect with their history, he said.

'It gives people a chance to be connected with that sense of Irishness,' he said.

The Manchester parade comes around the end of the region's celebrations for a reason, McLaughlin said.

'A lot of the marching units that participate in our parade also participate in this parade,' she said. 'We could do it on the day itself, but we'd lose out on a lot of the entertainment.'

One of those is the renowned Londonderry High School Marching Lancer Band, which has made appearances at the New York St. Patrick's Day parade, the Beijing Olympics, and even President Barack Obama's inauguration. The Lancers were give the honor this year to march last in the parade, a new feature this year, McLaughlin said.

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