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Rain waters the green; Thousands endure gray on Pat's day.

Byline: Priyanka Dayal

WORCESTER - Rain was as good an excuse as any to celebrate all things Irish yesterday.

Despite the cold breeze and steady drizzle, the annual St. Patrick's Day parade was nearly as big and as festive as it is on the warmest and sunniest of days.

Plenty of spectators lined Park Avenue to watch, though the sidewalks were not crammed as they were last year. Instead of staking out vantage points hours before the start of the parade, many viewers showed up just as the marchers left Mill Street at noon. Others found respite in the bars along the parade route.

"I prefer nicer weather, but this is OK," said Wayne Sjoberg, whose wife and three children sat in lawn chairs holding umbrellas. "Any weather is worth it ... There's a lot to see.

"It's kind of like a rite of spring," he added.

With cold rain pelting paradegoers, the day was hardly spring-like compared to last year's parade day, which was warmer and much sunnier.

"Last year we got sunburns. This year we're dressed for winter," said Melissa Kniskern, whose 2-1/2-year-old son was looking forward to seeing big trucks amble down the road.

Ms. Kniskern and her friends came prepared. They brought a tent.

Heather Hackett, who shared the tent with Ms. Kniskern, dressed for wet weather but said the parade should have been postponed.

"What can you do? You can't change (the weather)," said Juan Gualdarrama, who came to watch his 13-year-old daughter dance in the parade. Although Mr. Gualdarrama is Puerto Rican, he has been coming to this Irish celebration since 1974.

"I like how people get together, all different cultures," he said.

Musicians, dancers, firefighters, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and many others marched in the parade. Some dancers and band members wore ponchos over their uniforms.

Among the marchers were local politicians, including U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, who is running for re-election; state Rep. Karyn E. Polito, R-Shrewsbury, who is running for state treasurer; and state Rep. Lewis G. Evangelidis, R-Holden, and Scott Bove, who are running for sheriff.

There were bagpipes, drums, fifes, floats, firetrucks, antique cars, government officials from Ireland and even a group of marchers and a van advertising the U.S. Census.

At the front of the parade, marchers carried a banner in memory of Mary McInerney-Zona of Shrewsbury, who died in July after battling breast cancer. She was grand marshal of last year's parade.

Edwin Coghlin Jr., the former head of Coghlin Construction Services who is known for his extensive volunteer work, was grand marshal of this year's parade.

About 10 of the more than 100 groups scheduled to march in the parade canceled because of the "horrendous" weather, parade organizer Leo Quinn said. He estimates 5,000 people marched. "We are very proud of the people who did show up," he said.

Meanwhile, the poor weather made ever-popular bars even more enticing to those celebrating St. Patrick's Day yesterday. The Blarney Stone on Maywood Street was at capacity with a crowd dressed in green.

As people sipped beer in the heated bar, they could see a live broadcast of the parade on flat-screen TVs hanging on the walls. There was little motivation for them to step outside to watch the parade.

Rebecca Hammond and her friends visit the Blarney Stone every year for St. Patrick's Day. "Once a tradition, always a tradition," she said.

"It's a day off for us because it's raining," added her friend Greg Bankit. "If it was nice out, we would be out with the kids."

Police Officer Steven G. Pignataro, who was on patrol at the bar, said officers would be watching bars throughout the day. The crowd at Blarney Stone was well behaved around 1 in the afternoon, but "give it a couple hours," Officer Pignataro said.

The St. Patrick's Parade Committee named the following award winners from yesterday's parade:

Grand Marshal Award: Our Lady of the Angels Memorial Elementary School

Chairman's Award: Boy Scouts

Large High School Band: South High Community School Band

Small High School Band: Turner Falls High School Marching Band

Kiltie Band: Ancient Order of the Hibernians Pipes and Drums of Manchester, Worcester Kiltie Pipe Band (tie for first)

Color Guard: Holy Cross NROTC Color Guard

Marching Units: Oxford High School Naval JROTC Color Guard and Honor Guard

Upcork Award: St. Peter Central Catholic Elementary School

Shamrock Award: McInerney School of Irish Step Dance

Dublin Award: Galway Bay Irish Pub

Mayo Award: Kiwanis Club of Worcester

Heritage Award: Odd Fellows Home of Massachusetts

Ring of Kerry Award: Fiddler's Green Pub & Restaurant

Galway Award: Pepperidge Farm and Biagio's Grille

Harp Award: Wine Vine

St. Patrick's Award: Community-Based Day Support Program from Seven Hills

Sligo Award: Friendly House/Jo Ann Warren Studio

Most Creative Small Float: Hometown Brewing

Best Decorated Windows: National Glass Works

Best Crowd Award non-business: Shillelaghs

Best Crowd Award business: Plywood Plus

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) The Celtic Thunder Youth Pipe Band performs yesterday during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Worcester. (2) Deborah DeSimone of Millbury waves her Irish flag. (3) At far right, Natalee Horton, 5, of Worcester, Ailene Barry, 4, and her sister Cate Barry, 6, both of Hopkinton, watch the parade.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/PAUL KAPTEYN
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Mar 15, 2010
Words:878
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