OCEAN CITY — While the masses will line Coastal Highway for the Delmarva Irish-American Club’s 35th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade next month, thousands more will have the opportunity to watch the popular event live on television for the first time ever.
The DIAC and local NBC affiliate WRDE announced on Tuesday this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Ocean City, set for Saturday, March 12, will be broadcast live on parade day and again throughout the week including a marathon on actual St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. Mayor Rick Meehan., president of the DIAC, and WRDE President and General Manager Bob Backman made the announcement on Tuesday morning at City Hall.
“This is an exciting time for us,” said Meehan. “We have our 35th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade coming up and we’re very excited to announce that this year’s parade will be broadcast live.”
From modest beginnings in 1980, when the fledgling DIAC first conceived the idea of a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Ocean City, the annual event has grown to become the second largest of its kind in Maryland. Just a few vehicles and a handful of participants marched down Coastal Highway in that very first parade, but the event now includes around 125 entries.
“It’s become a huge event in Ocean City,” said Meehan. “It’s the second largest parade in the state, but it’s the best.”
In the early years, the parade was always held on St. Patrick’s Day itself, March 17, regardless of what day of the week on which it fell. Several years ago, event organizers, including Meehan, Buck Mann and Dennis Roarty and many others too numerous to mention, made the decision to hold the parade on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and the rest is history.
Moving the parade to the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day really jumpstarted the event and took it to a new level with an estimated 100,000 cramming into the resort for the parade and the associated festivities. In most years, the weather cooperates and the event becomes a celebration of the arrival of spring and the unofficial kickoff of a new season, while in other years, hearty participants and spectators brace themselves against cold winds and drizzle reminiscent of Ireland itself.
Only three times in 34 years has the parade been canceled due to bad weather, including last year. With heavy rain predicted last year, the DIAC held out hope for a window of decent weather during which to get the parade off, but by Saturday morning, conditions deteriorated to the point the parade was canceled largely because of public safety reasons.
This year’s parade will be seen by thousands out on Coastal Highway and countless more will have the opportunity to watch it live on television on WRDE and again throughout the week on WRDE and its sister station MY COZI TV. WRDE is partnering with the DIAC to broadcast the parade live on March 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the event will also be streamed live on WRDE.com.
“Quite honestly, we’re very humbled and very grateful,” said Backman on Tuesday. “The tradition you have created over the years is just magnificent. When we started this station a year and a half ago, our mission was local, local, local. This helps us accomplish that. We couldn’t be more thrilled.”
In addition to the live coverage on March 12, MY COZI TV will air the parade again on Sunday, March 13 three times consecutively from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 2 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. On Thursday, March 17, MY COZI TV will air a St. Patrick’s Day Parade marathon from 9 a.m. to midnight.
The parade runs south on Coastal Highway from 57th Street to the 45th Street Village, where a festival of live music, dancing, traditional Irish food and drinks will take place throughout the afternoon. Trophies will be awarded for the best marching band, the best commercial float, the best non-commercial float, best motorized unit, best adult marching unit, best youth marching unit, special committee award, judge’s choice award and best overall entry. For one day at least, Ocean City will become ground zero for everything Irish in the state as the event really jumpstarts the spring season.
“It’s really become the kickoff for our season,” he said. “There will be well in excess of 100,000 people in town. We want to make sure everybody throughout the region gets to see this parade and this is a great partnership.”
While the parade and the associated festivities are all about celebrating everything Irish, no less important are its charitable undertones. The DIAC, founded in 1980 with just 75 members in its initial membership drive now totals over 400 members who are committed to giving back to the community. The DIAC has awarded roughly $300,000 in scholarships to local high school students over the years along with numerous other contributions to local charities. Meehan said despite last year’s cancellation, the DIAC still managed to continue its charitable traditions.
“It’s a total non-profit entity,” he said. “Even though we got rained out last year, we still met our obligations to the community.”