If you ask the sponsors of The Scranton St. Patrick’s Parade, they might say that the event has reached a kind of immortal apex of perfection. Like those of major cities, the parade has created a life of its own and the only thing left to do is let it thrive and flourish year in and year out. If this sounds a little extreme for a Lackawanna parade, that’s because it is. The parade is often referred to as Scranton’s version of Mardi Gras; one of the largest and most celebrated events of its kind in the nation. It is so full of pageantry and joviality that it is a near impossibility not catching a severe case of Irish Spirit.
In honor of veterans and those serving in uniform, a military band usually leads the processional through the parade route. One of the more recent bands to perform was the much famed and fabled United States Naval Academy Marching Band. Followed in turn are anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 participants riding through the parade route on elaborate floats, in cool cars, or as a dance or music troupe. And it’s not just the event participants that show up en masse. Even in blustery weather, it is not unusual for crowd turnout to meet and surpass 50,000.
The secret of success for the Scranton St. Patrick’s Parade is its genuine and sincere focus on families and community. The unofficial mission of the parade is to give children from the community the opportunity to march and be appreciated. It is for this reason that performers and spectators alike have been repeatedly turning out for the more than half-century the parade has been held. But any fears that the parade has turned stagnate or has become roiled in over-whelming tradition should be quickly dismissed. Sponsors are actively looking for new pipe bands, high school bands, and other performers and attractions to ensure that each parade is a unique experience.
Though the Scranton St. Patrick Parade is the main event, there are a few ancillary activities before the parade worth attending. The morning of the parade starts with an early mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral, and segways quickly to the annual Brian P. Kelly Memorial Race. This footrace traces the two mile parade route and is hailed as one of the oldest such races in the region. If you are in the area, a week before the parade, a VIP dinner is held to publicly announce the parade dignitaries and is open to the public.
Admission to the parade route is free, but fills up early. Parking is in municipal lots and is limited.