A new committee has been formed to hold a St. Patrick’s Day parade in New London following the breakdown of permit discussions with the New London Irish Parade, Mayor Daryl Finizio announced this evening.
Finizio said the committee will be headed by Sean Patrick Murray and Barbara Neff. Murray has been involved in coordinating local concerts, including the I AM Festival, while Neff is the executive director of the Downtown New London Association and has set up waterfront events such as Sailfest.
“The New London Irish Parade Committee has produced a well-organized event that has benefited New London for the past few years and it is unfortunate to see them go, but this is a great event for New London businesses and is a lot of fun for out entire community,” Murray said in a statement.
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Murray said he approached the city and DNLA about the possibility of forming a new parade committee following the news that the New London Irish Parade committee had voted to hold the 2013 event in another community. The organizers of the new committee are looking to hold a parade on March 17, one day after the date the New London Irish Parade plans to hold its event.
“I am confident New London can have a great parade this year,” Neff said. “This is a great event for our local businesses and I have already heard from numerous downtown businesses that have committed to help us pay for the necessary city services to keep this event in New London.”
Use of municipal services
The use of city services proved a source of difficulties in discussions between the New London Irish Parade committee and city. Under an executive order signed by Finizio in May, event organizers must pay for the use of any municipal services that will be used before a permit for the event is approved.
The New London Irish Parade sought to repeat its 1.1-mile route along Huntington Street, Tilley Street, Bank Street, and State Street. The city’s original estimates put the cost for New London Police Department services at $15,076.81 and Department of Public Works services at $3,489.79. The city said the estimates for reducing some services and holding the parade along a former .6-mile route up Bank Street and State Street would put the total police costs at $6,437.26 and Public Works costs at $1,599.47.
The New London Irish Parade committee said it would contribute up $7,500 toward municipal costs, but voted to hold the parade in another community after saying it was unwilling to commit to a New London parade without a fixed cost. Both Finizio and Marie Friess-McSparran, a city councilor and president of the committee, also said they thought there were political motivations on the part of the committee and city, respectively.
Friess-McSparran said the committee has not met with city officials since the vote, but that the city made an offer to charge a set fee of $7,500 if the parade took place along Bank and State Street. She said the committee did not agree to the offer because of the need for a larger staging area than this route would provide. The longer route staged in the parking lots for All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church as well as St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church while the shorter route staged on South Water Street.
“It was actually dangerous to stage for us down there because we had so many participants we were actually staging across the train tracks,” said Friess-McSparran.
The new committee will still be responsible for paying for the use of these services. Zak Leavy, Finizio’s executive assistant, said the administration will meet with members to determine a route based on the costs they will be able to afford.
“It’s a lot of work”
Anyone interested in sponsoring or volunteering with the new committee should contact Murray at Nlstpatsparade@gmail.com. Finizio said he was pleased to see the formation of the new committee.
“I am very encouraged by the enthusiasm expressed by our local event promoters and local businesses who are working together to have a great St. Patrick’s Day parade this year in New London,” he said. “This effort demonstrates what is best about New London.”
Friess-McSparran wished the newly formed committee luck in putting together the parade, but said it will be a major undertaking for them to do so in five months.
“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “In order to put the parade that we put on last year, we start from the day after we have our parade and we’ve been working since last March to put on the 2013 parade.”
Friess-McSparran estimated that there were about 1,000 participants in this year’s event, most of the whom came from organizations outside of New London to march in the parade. She said some participants may choose to take part in one parade but not the other, noting that groups have been unwilling to take part in the New London Irish Parade if they are participating in other St. Patrick's Day events in the region.
“Most participants do not like to march in parades that are that close together or in towns that are abutting,” she said.
The New London Irish Parade is a nonprofit registered with the parade. Friess-McSparran said the group cannot change its name as a result, and that its event will likely be presented as a St. Patrick’s Day parade put on by the New London Irish Parade Inc. She said the committee is still negotiating with other communities to find a new location for the 2013 event.