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Hartford Parade-Goers Show They're A Hearty Lot

Kathleen Megan

March 14, 2010

Pat Branciforte didn't give a second thought to the rain, wind and cold as she planned to come to the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Hartford on Saturday.

"This is Irish weather," Branciforte said as she sat under an umbrella on Capitol Avenue. "We're here because we always come."

Her family and friends were out along the curb and under a tent in the parking lot behind her preparing an elaborate barbecue of hamburgers, sausage and corned beef.

The crowds were way down at the parade, but the hearty, stalwart souls who turned out were like Branciforte: determined to come and enjoying every minute.

Nor did the inhospitable weather deter the parade itself. The usual array of fife and drum and drum and bugle corps, bagpipers, twirlers, Irish dancers and others all showed up — many, though not all, sporting serious rain gear.

Eileen Moore, the chairwoman of the parade, which was sponsored by the Central Connecticut Celtic Cultural Committee, said the only groups to cancel were some high school marching bands who feared the rain could damage their instruments. Moore estimated there were about 3,000 parade-goers this year, compared to many thousands more last year.

The most envied spectators of the event were those who had the forethought — like Branciforte and her family — to set up a tent and have a grill or picnic under it.

John Cronin of Tolland, a retired police officer, and his family and friends were among those arriving with tent and grill. Cronin made his signature corn beef, cabbage and Swiss cheese stromboli, which he was planning to heat up on the grill.

Cronin said the weather would not affect him. "If they are here to march, then we are here to watch," he said.

His wife, Andrea Cronin, said St. Patrick's Day is important to them. "It's Irish Christmas in our house."

Not far from the Cronins along Capitol Avenue, Donna Lawson and her extended family and friends had the ultimate in parade-watching: a sizable recreational vehicle with an awning offering protection from the elements.

Lawson said the family has been bringing the RV for five or six years and usually hosts about a hundred friends and family members. She came with a half-dozen cooked corned beefs and was planning a sizable post-parade feast under the awning.

"It's always nice to have a bathroom and heat," she said.

The parade participants made minor adjustments for the weather. Michaela and Daniela Flint, 15-year-old twins from Glastonbury, and members of the Col. John Chester Fife and Drum Corps of Wethersfield, stretched plastic over there tri-corner caps. But, they said, the rain would not affect Michaela's fife or Daniela's snare drum.

Colin Quint, 15, also in Col. John, said the rain was likely to make the sound of his calf-skin covered bass drum a bit soggy.

Mike Griffin, a bagpiper with the Worcester Kiltie Pipe Band, said the rain made it hard to keep the pipes in tune. The only other downside: the chill for a kilt-clad bagpiper. "We're fine except for our knees," he said.

Kelly Savino a 14-year-old who juggles three batons at a time, said she was a little worried that one might slip when the metal got wet, but she didn't have a problem. A member of the Simsbury Spinners, Savino said the group usually wears leotards with sequins and jewels, but opted for warm-up suits instead.

Joe Doyle, the 92-year-old grand marshal of the parade, said he didn't mind the weather a bit. Born in Northern Ireland, Doyle has been heavily involved in events promoting Irish culture and in the past would sometimes walk the parade route twice — once with the town of East Hartford and again with the Irish American Home Society. He rode in a rumble seat in the back of a white limousine on Saturday, but said he would rather be walking. Asked if it was a thrill to be grand marshal, Doyle said, "You bet your life it is!"

•For anyone who missed the Saturday event, there's another chance today. New Haven's St. Patrick's Day Parade starts at 1 p.m.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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