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Jim Thorpe St. Patrick’s Day parade ends 21-year run

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    The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Jim Thorpe will no longer take place, officials said today. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO

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    Noel and Bernadette Behan were the grand marshals for the 2018 parade. “This parade brought a lot of good people to town over the years. It’s sad to see it go, but it has become a big financial strain every year,” Noel Behan said. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO

Published July 12. 2018 12:57PM

The last bagpipes have sounded in the popular Carbon County St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

After 21 years, organizers announced Wednesday morning they will no longer hold the event.

“The decision was made to end the parade for a number of reasons both physical and financial,” said Ron Sheehan, parade committee member.

“The committee has consisted of the same core members who have handled the details of fundraising, parade administration, logistics, traffic and crowd control, the Grand Marshal Dinner, and St. Patrick’s Mass, with no younger members joining the ranks.

“We wanted to end the parade on a high note. It gets harder each year to raise money to cover the cost of the bands, police and public services expenses, insurance and other related costs.”

The most recent parade and accompanying events, he added, cost around $40,000.

Since the tradition started back in 1997, the parade has drawn around 10,000 people to Jim Thorpe each year. The final decision, Sheehan said, came down from the committee on Monday night.

“The discussions have taken place for a while,” he said. “It was very heart-wrenching. There were a lot of tears as we discussed it. Most of our core group has been around for all 21 parades.”

Of the 14-member committee, it is estimated around 10 of them have been around for all 21 parades.

Sponsors of the parade included the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee of Jim Thorpe and Carbon County Inc., a spinoff of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Alec Campbell Division 1, Carbon County, and the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, Mollie Maguire Division 1, Carbon County.

Sheehan also thanked the advertisers, residents and spectators who enthusiastically supported the event over the years.

Noel Behan and Ron Sheehan conceived the St. Patrick’s Day Parade idea at a Bach and Handel fundraiser. Shortly after, the AOH was formed and a committee and members were in place. The next year, 1997, the first parade marched down Broadway. The following year, the LAOH was formed.

Over the years, however, health issues took their toll.

“I’m 75 years old,” said Hugh Dugan, parade committee co-chairman. “Noel suffered a stroke recently. A lot of members have had to deal with some type of health issue. We’re feeling relief today, but it is very emotional.”

Noel Behan, along with his wife, Bernadette, served as the last grand marshals of the parade in 2018.

“It’s bittersweet,” Noel Behan said. “This parade brought a lot of good people to town over the years. It’s sad to see it go, but it has become a big financial strain every year. We start planning in October and there are a lot of logistics involved.”

The Behans spend time at their residence in Florida each year, during which Bernadette spends more hours on parade work than anything else, Dugan said.

“As sad as I am,” Bernadette said, ‘I know the parade brought Jim Thorpe to life in March. It brought so many families together through parties and get-togethers. I’ve come to know a lot of people who gave so generously over the years. Nobody really wanted to step in and take off with this, and I can understand why. It’s a very tough job.”

Over the 21 years, Sheehan said, the parade has never had to be canceled due to weather and there have been no injuries or accidents connected to the event.

Wanting to ensure that stayed the case, the committee passed on having one final parade in 2019.

“We feared that if people knew it was the last one, the crowd might get out of control,” Sheehan said. “We didn’t want this to lose some of its shine or become a dangerous event by not doing it properly. We’re going out on a high note.”

In one final message to the many parade spectators and supporters over the years, Sheehan said, ‘“You don’t need a parade to celebrate and show your pride in your Irish ancestry or to honor the great St. Patrick.”

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