MANY braved the wind and rain for Waterford’s 2023 St Patrick’s Day Parade. Up to 70 floats and 2,000 participants took to the Mall to show the very Best of Waterford.
Led by Grand Marshall Kelyn Cassidy, the parade took off from the Quays and weaved its way around towards the Mall.
The first ever Saint Patrick’s Day Parade happened in Waterford in 1903, thanks originally to the campaigning efforts of Franciscan local Luke Wadding in the 17th Century.
The Waterford friar wanted March 17, the death of St Patrick, Ireland’s patron Saint, to be made a Feast Day by the Roman Catholic Church. Thanks to his efforts, the date was given Papal recognition. It was made an official public holiday in Ireland in the early 20th Century, and would go on to be celebrated worldwide.
‘Grand Marshall Kelyn Cassidy was proud to hold the title of Grand Marshall, a role he carried off with aplomb’
Right before the 2023 parade kicked off, there was a solemn moment for the Irish National Flag presentation. Tadhg Williams, dressed as Thomas Francis Meagher – who first flew the Tricolour from 33 The Mall 175 years ago – officially handed the Irish Tricolour to the Mayor of Waterford, Cllr John O’Leary.
Grand Marshall Kelyn Cassidy was proud to hold the title of Grand Marshall, a role he carried off with aplomb, saying: “I feel unbelievable, it’s a great honour to be asked to be Grand Marshall for Waterford City.
“Waterford has been good to me throughout my boxing experiences so it’s happy days.”
Kelyn especially noted Waterford City and County Council’s support, especially in the run up to next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.
“I’ve the eyes on going to the Olympic Games, it’s every amateur boxer’s dream to go to the Olympic Games and it’s only just around the corner so I’m looking forward to it.”
Waterford’s diverse communities were the shining stars of the parade.
The Pakistani community flew their green and white flags to the cheers of the audience.
The Indian community had a colourful array of dancers, drums, performers and a vibrant balloon arch that spelled out ‘INDIA’.
The Filipino community delighted the crowds with dancers dressed in beautiful red skirts, performing a traditional Philippine folk dance.
A standing ovation was given as the Ukrainian community passed by, which was led by women dressed in traditional stitch wear, unique to their culture.
It was a poignant moment during the festivities, and a symbol of solidarity for the Ukrainian people living in Waterford, who have been displaced by the devastating war in their home country.
Solidarity was also presented to the Palestinian people, particularly with Waterford’s twin city Ramallah, a municipality in Palestine.
There were classic festival scenes, with Saint Patrick himself leisurely cruising through the Mall in a classic Cadillac.
Waterford Youth Arts drew in gasps from the crowds as they made their way down the Mall wearing bird-like costumes, made in collaboration with Spraoi.
The McGrath School of Irish Dancing entertained the crowds before the parade kicked off with their incredibly talented young students dancing jigs and reels, unperturbed by the drizzle.
Spraoi Waterford lent their talents to multiple floats, one in particular being the Theatre Box stage school. Promoting their upcoming ‘The Addams Family’ musical comedy, a cast of spooky and kooky characters creeped past the crowds.
Morticia Addams herself was suspended above the family in a black, iron-like crane, elegantly holding an umbrella to protect herself from the elements.
Waterford Credit Union rolled out a fabulous beehive live sculpture, backed by a colour brass band, dressed as buzzy beads.
There was an incredible showing from Waterford sports clubs, including Ballygunner, Mount Sion, Ferrybank and Ballyduff GAA Club and the Scouts, to name a few.
The Southlands Sirens Roller Derby skated their way past, even re-enacting a mine explosion as part of their wonderful act.
WAMA (Waterford Academy of Music and Arts) blistered on through playing a powerful cover of the Foo Fighter’s classic ‘Everlong’ – accompanied by a ten-foot puppet playing guitar.
The Taekwondo Club members smashed wood and threw kicks and punches to the gasps of onlookers.
There was a touching moment when Mayor Cllr O’Leary hugged his grandchildren as they were passing by in the Park Rangers posse.
Speaking to Mrs Eileen O’Leary, “I was so proud seeing all the children in the stands today. For such a windy and miserable day they came out, all the children and adults.”
Both Cllr and Mrs O’Leary cited the colourful contributions from the Filipino and Indian communities.
The Mayor praised his home club, saying: “I have to say, my own club Ballyduff Lower, I thought they turned out well, they looked absolutely excellent.
“I’m the Chairman of that club and I was proud as punch as Mayor of Waterford City to be sitting there.”
He continued: “To all the people who organised today for the benefit for all of us to enjoy. They really put in the work, the Parade Committee, John Grubb, Johnny Codd and everyone.”
Mrs O’Leary drew on the significance of Waterford in launching St Patrick’s Day into a holiday.
She said: “It was a Waterford man, Luke Wadding, who persevered and kept at the Pope to make it a Feast Day and Waterford was the first county in Ireland to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in 1903.
“And look how much we’ve grown and now it’s all over the world, and my aren’t we proud!”
Metropolitan Mayor Councillor Jason Murphy was also enthusiastic about the festivities.
He said: “I think it was one of the best parades I’ve seen, a lot of great acts, great effort put into it with the sporting clubs, the scouts, musicians.”
He championed the involvement and enthusiasm of all who took part, saying: “It was nice to see the new communities taking part and really getting involved, the Youth Arts were great, and Spraoi were in a lot of things this year so it really raises the quality.”
He ended: “Seeing all this really brings home the work all these clubs do for young people.”
With this level of pride, talent and tradition, Waterford can look forward to another 120 years of St Patrick’s Day parades, and many more after.