Despite Weather, Outvets Dispute, St. Patrick’s Parade Draws Crowds

St Patricks
A group from OutVets marches in the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston, Sunday, March 19, 2017. The parade's organizer, the South Boston Allied War Council, initially banned OutVets from this year's parade, saying it failed to comply with guidelines by carrying the rainbow banner last year. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Green beads turned into gold as they flew across the air into the arms of Bostonians on West Broadway.

Though not all of the people that lined the sidewalks for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade this Sunday were Irish themselves, they were united for a day by the color green, and their love of having a good time. Although Boston shortened the parade route this year due to cold weather and Winter Storm Stella, the minor snowfall throughout the day did not stop the students that flooded the streets from enjoying the celebration.

As confetti and candy flew through the frigid air, overly excited college students and children on their parents’ shoulders all caught whatever prizes they could, encouraged by the chanting of those beside them.

Students on the corner of L Street filled apartment balconies and the sidewalks below, chanting Irish rhymes and attempting traditional step dancing with whatever stranger happened to be standing next to them on the sidewalk.

Amanda Kishfy, MCAS ’19, arrived at the parade just as it began at 1 p.m., claiming her spot on G Street. Kishfy noted the quirks of the celebration that made it special enough for her to come back for a second year in a row.

“I think I come to the parade to see all of the different people interact with each other,” Kishfy said. “My favorite part of the day so far has been looking across the street and watching that group of tough-as-nails grandmothers push college students out of the way to hold onto their spot at the front of the sidewalk.”

On G Street, the halfway mark of the parade route, echoed up and down the street as the musicians marched along West and East Broadway.

The few times the sound of the bagpipes did fade, it was immediately replaced by the blasting of Dropkick Murphys, the Boston-based punk band. The sound of this homegrown troupe, which returned to Boston over the weekend on their tour, incited even more excitement and dancing from the crowds.

The parade, however, was about more than a day of celebration to many of the attendees. Just as much as there was playful banter and camaraderie, participants and spectators exuded a gratitude and respect for Irish history, and the impact that it has had on Boston in particular.  

The parade was not without controversy. According to The Boston Globe, Outvets, an organization that honors LGBTQ+ veterans, had to fight for a spot in the parade lineup this year.

Outvets was initially refused permission to march in the parade per the decision of a war veterans council that controls what groups get to march. After high-profile politicians such as Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09,  and Governor Charlie Baker publicly refused to march in the parade due to this issue, a veterans’ council in South Boston met for a second time to have a revote on the matter.

After a unanimous vote, Outvets was invited to join the parade lineup and marched this Sunday, receiving loud cheers and encouragement as rainbow flags hung from apartment windows along the entire route.

Sammi Martin, MCAS ’17, who was attending the parade for the first time, felt a certain hope in the support that has been shown for Outvets throughout the controversy.

“I was really proud that Marty Walsh stood up, because LGBTQ rights are something that I’m very passionate about,” Martin said. “That’s not an accurate reflection of what Boston is and what Bostonians should be, so I’m really happy that they voted to overturn their initial decision.”

Martin, surrounded by the support of many other Boston College students with whom she attended the parade, expressed her wish for this incident to serve as an example for the future.

“Hopefully, we can all learn something from this situation and move forward where everyone can celebrate equally and peacefully,” she said.

Although college students held a strong presence at the parade, attendance among older crowds was lower in numbers, likely due to the unexpected wintry weather in March.

One parade-goer, Dennis, hit his 30th year of attendance at the Southie St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year. The turn out this Sunday, he observed, was smaller than in years past.

He did not, however, notice any decrease in enthusiasm among those who attended.

“My favorite part of today is seeing all of the people enjoy the parade,” he said. “Every year is different. This year has a little less people, but everyone still has a great time.”

Featured Image by Michael Dwyer / AP Photo