Everything You Need To Know About The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Yarmouth

Early Saturday morning the crowds will begin to line Route 28 in Yarmouth in eager anticipation of a Cape Cod tradition going back more than a decade.

The 13th Annual Cape Cod Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is scheduled to get underway at 11:00 AM, but the festivities commence well before. Local establishments offer bargains on brunch and the booze begins to flow by late morning.

The event began humbly, but has seen steady growth for years with the help of volunteers, corporate sponsors, and local tourism preservation funding to become a force which brings visitors to the cape in mid-March and leads to a much needed surge for the area economy.

“It’s a big event now, it’s a big financial shot in the arm to a lot of businesses down there coming out of the winter, which before the parade, there was nothing there, there was no money coming in,” said Parade Committee Member Tom McCormaic.

The revelry is hardly limited to those who are Irish by blood. Tens of thousands are more than happy to fake it for a day, donning green hats, coats, ties, scarfs, suspenders, socks, pants, sunglasses, beads, shoes, hair dye and body paint. A newcomer to the event would surely be entertained enough simply marveling at their outrageously festooned comrades, but alas the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is so much more.

First and foremost it is a parade and that means floats, fire trucks, and classic autos, Shriners on scooters, veterans, and local marching bands. There are scout troops and area politicians throwing candy and beads to exited young people. There are Irish step dancers and men in kilts (which, as it turns out is an article of clothing not solely enjoyed by the Scottish). 67 local business, organizations, bands, and community groups have already pledged to be a part.

The parade route is about 2 miles long. It begins at Bass River Sports World at the intersection of Long Pond Drive and Route 28 in South Yarmouth and follows Route 28 west over the Parker’s River Bridge, ending at the Town ’n Country Motel.

“We would like to thank you, the spectators for continually spreading the word and inviting more and more spectators each year,” say event Co-Chair John Fallon, “ You have proven to be a hardy bunch, braving the elements to help us celebrate our Irish heritage and the eventual arrival of spring.”

“It’s things like this that help local businesses at a time when normally there wouldn’t be anybody down here that weekend,” continued Fallon. “You wouldn’t have a lot of tourism down here, but now we’re hoping to have 30-40,000 people.”

The parade attracts people from Boston and Hartford, Connecticut because the event is smaller and more intimate, according to McCormaic.

“The Boston parade’s maybe too big, whereas down here is the perfect size, perfect route, nice family atmosphere, the hotels are right there,” said McCormaic.

The Parade is proceeded each year by the Grand Marshall’s Dinner at 6:00 PM the evening before the Parade. For some, the Grand Marshall’s Ball is as big an event as the Parade itself. It’s held at the Riverway Restaurant, with each $30 ticket sale going to support the parade.

Another staple of the parade is the annual Grand Marshal himself (or herself, as the case may be) – an area big-wig or native Cape Codder who went off and made it big – this time is no different. Local boy Tim Kelley, meteorologist with New England Cable News and Dennis native, will lead this year’s Parade as the Grand Marshal.

Kelley has been a meteorologist with NECN since the station’s launch in 1992. He began his career at WMUR-TV in New Hampshire, then spent three years as a meteorologist and environmental reporter at WLNE-TV in Providence.

Previous Grand Marshals for the parade have included star athletes like New England Patriots safety Brandon King, running back and Carolina Panthers Defensive End Ryan Delaire; television weather personalities like Mr. Kelley and WCVB-TV Meteorologist Cindy Fitzgibbon.

Another significant tradition associated with the event is the Colleen Court. Each year the Sons of Erin Cape Cod works with the St. Patrick’s parade committee to award college scholarships to local female high school students of Irish descent.

The Colleen winner, the Queen, receives a $1,000 scholarship and the three runners-up court winners receive $500 each.

Following the parade itself, the merriment continues all day and evening as local restaurants offer special entertainment and meals to celebrate the event. For those who perhaps over-celebrate there are typically free shuttle buses available to take people between restaurants and hotels in town.

Additionally, the Yarmouth Police Department will likely activate Operation Safe Ride Home providing a free taxi trip for local residents who would prefer not get behind the wheel.

Gerry Manning, one of the original founders of the event is known to say “Everybody loves a parade,” and on Saint Patrick’s Day especially. It has been cold for too long, Cape Codders are almost wistful for the return of tourist season.

For years the parade has given locals an excuse to get outside again, and given visitors the excuse to visit again.

By CapeCod.com Staff

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