Manchester's St. Patrick's Parade a march of the IrishBy BILL SMITH
New Hampshire Union Leader
March 30. 2014 10:06PM
MANCHESTER — A wee bit of Irish luck descended on Manchester Sunday, shielding marchers and spectators from rain showers that buffeted the region through much of the day Sunday.
"We were thrilled that the rain held off from about 10:45 until 2:30," St. Patrick's Parade spokesman Stephanie McLaughlin said.
Attendance wasn't at the levels seen when the sun favors Manchester with its presence on the last Sunday in March, but everyone at the 19th annual parade got a good view of the performers, marchers and musical groups.
George Torres is from Honduras, but got into the spirit of the day; he and his wife, Christine, wore green Irish top hats. The Manchester couple's children, Allie, 3, and Dillon, 7, were dressed in green. Even the family dog was sporting a green ribbon.
"I'm learning about American holidays," George Torres said.
Military and police units received enthusiastic applause from the spectators. Firefighters were accorded respectful applause, an acknowledgement of the deaths of two Boston firefighters working to contain a ferocious fire last week.
The parade was dedicated to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings last April, and to the first responders who saved lives and provided protection in the tense moments after the attack.
Several parents and friends of Hillside School students wore purple T-shirts identifying them as members of "Maggie's Bunch." The group was formed after the death of Margaret Elizabeth "Maggie" Philbrook, a 13-year-old Hillside 8th-grader who died of cancer in February.
The group has been raising funds to make donations in Maggie's name, including the school band, of which she was an enthusiastic member. A recent "dress down" day throughout city schools raised more than $6,000 by collecting a $5 fee for the privilege of dressing down from usual school attire.
"The whole school department, every school, had a dress-down day," said Hillside parent Wendy Hudson, who along with fellow parent Andrea Haddad ran in the Northeast Delta Dental Shamrock Shuffle road race before the parade.
Sister Patricia Sullivan of the Sisters of Mercy, a former director of the New Hampshire Catholic Charities, was the parade grand marshal. Former Manchester alderman Mike Lopez received the Thomas J. King Award, named in honor of the parade founder, a former Manchester police chief.
The weather meant some bands could not perform Sunday because of the potential for damage to their instruments and uniforms. The Londonderry High School and Manchester High School West bands did not perform. Visits from beauty pageant winners from the North Country were canceled, since the storm that brought rain to Manchester provided another four inches of snow north of Franconia Notch.
But the crowd was in an Irish mood and wasn't disappointed. Members of a Concord-based hurling team made an annual appearance, using their sticks to pass a ball back and forth as they marched.
The Barley Hall Wolves showed off their talents, demonstrating an Irish sport in which the game goes on, good weather or wet.