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St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Youngstown also honors late mayor

YOUNGSTOWN – ’Tis a wearing of the green – and a great deal more – planned for noon Saturday for the fourth annual “O’Riordan St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Remembering Mayor Neil.”

Neil Riordan, who served village government for 32 years and was in his 10th year as mayor when he died in September 2011, had often talked about having a St. Patrick’s Day parade but died before he could hold one, recalled Cheryl Irish-Butera, president of the Youngstown Business and Professional Association.

“So the business association got together and decided we’d try and have the parade,” she said.

“We decided it wouldn’t cost anybody anything,” she added. “It’s all volunteer and it’s in honor of Neil. Everybody adored Neil. ... We still love and miss him.”

Parade participants will gather at the corner of Hinman and Main streets and march (and roll) up toward the Ontario House (the “Jug”), then south along Main to the Mug and Musket Tavern to celebrate with Irish music.

“This sounds corny, but this parade is so much fun,” added Irish-Butera. “It’s a throwback to simple fun for everyone.”

A prize is awarded for the best adult float, and because children sometimes participate in their family’s business float, a prize goes to the best family or children’s float, as well. And by “float,” organizers of this unique parade mean a decorated shopping cart borrowed from Melloni’s Market Place specifically for the event.

Every business gets one shopping cart to decorate with the theme of their business. The event is sponsored by the business association and supported by the Village of Youngstown.

Parade music will be provided by Youngstown’s MacKenzie Highlanders Pipes and Drums and Step in Time, as well as by any other musicians who would like to participate in the non-profit event. Dancers from Amy Roach’s Dance Shop in Youngstown, along with performers from the McCarthy School of Irish Dancers, also will participate.

Robert Emerson, executive director of Old Fort Niagara, and his son, Will, will help represent the Fort, along with many staff and volunteers dressed in Revolutionary War-era garb.

“We first got involved in order to present arms in memory of Neil back when there were only a handful of people involved,” Emerson recalled. “I think it’s good for the Fort and village to do things together. Then, Melloni’s started the idea with the shopping carts, which I think was a really neat twist on the parade, and every year this has gotten bigger. It’s a lot of fun.”

Lake Ontario VFW Post 313, the Youngstown Lions Club, and the U.S. Coast Guard, stationed at Fort Niagara, also will participate. The event is held rain or shine and is chaired by the business association’s Diane Melloni, Irish-Butera and Dotty Riordan, wife of the late mayor.

New this year, the Youngstown Lions Club also will hold a “cash bash” event from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Red Brick in conjunction with this event, to be catered by Bandanna’s Bar and Grill. Tickets will be available at Melloni’s, Anchor Spirits, and at the door.

“After the cash bash, everyone goes back to the Mug and Musket or the Jug,” Irish-Butera said. “There is a huge pocket of Irish in the Youngstown area and there will be people all over. Last year, I don’t think there were any shopping carts left at Melloni’s that day, because everyone took one to decorate. We also encourage all of our businesses to be open and participate in this. We have more than 65 members in our association and that includes people who work from home or live in Youngstown but have a business somewhere else.

“It will be even bigger this year,” Irish-Butera promised. “People love parades and I think they know that when we have our St. Patrick’s Day parade, Spring is just around the corner.”