Saint Patrick's parade set March 21 in Meadville

by Sean Dunlap

Franklin County’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade — the highly-anticipated community outreach of the local Lions Club — will be held at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 21 in downtown Meadville.

“The parade is open to those willing to put in anything from horses to bicycles, ATVs to trucks as well as trailers and floats,” Jill Jordan Gilbert, a Lions Club member and coordinator of the gathering.

“The parade is something that doesn’t cost anything to participate in and brings a lot of joy as we move into the spring season and the weather is a little warmer.”

The event will also feature involvement by the Franklin County High School Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps as well as the Pride of Franklin County Marching Band.

Gilbert, who also serves as Franklin County’s Chancery Clerk, said the original premise for the event was going to be a Mardi Gras procession, but the idea was shifted to Saint Patrick’s Day to make it even more unique.

“Max and Barbara Graves got this started back in the day and — outside of the cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic — we’ve worked to carry on the tradition for many years.

“I think there was even a move, at one point, to turn the Homochitto River green to coincide with the event, but that didn’t happen ... that’s how passionate people are about this celebration,” she said with a laugh.

Gilbert noted the event does not fall on the actual Saint Patrick’s Day observance (which is Friday, March 17) — primarily because the Franklin County School District is typically on its annual spring break hiatus.

“I think the entire time we’ve been doing this, the parade actually fell on Saint Patrick’s Day once, the rest of the time we do it when the children are in school and families are home from their spring break trips,” she went on to say.

Participant line-ups will take place in the circular parking lot between the high school and middle school at the foot of Edison Street at 5 p.m., and will roll promptly a half hour later.

Those planning to take part in the parade are encouraged to pre-register by contacting Gilbert at 601-810-2532 — via text message — for the chance to be eligible for a drawing for randomly drawn cash prizes.

“Anyone can participate in the parade without pre-registering, but to be in the actual drawing, you will need to sign up in advance,” she said.

The primary mission of Franklin County’s Lions Club organization is to assist county residents — children and adults — who desperately need eye glasses, but face financial hardships that might prevent them from purchasing the means to see better.

“There is an evaluation to determine if the individual has a legitimate need, and a lot of times we get referrals from the schools for children whose families do not have the means to buy glasses,” Gilbert continued.

She also encouraged anyone who would like to become part of the civic organization to contact her regarding how to join the Lions Club.
Saint Patrick’s Day, established as an official feast day in the early 17th century, is observed by numerous Christian denominations around the globe.

The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish people.