New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Downtown New Haven • New Haven, CT • New Haven County

Historical Significance

The St. Patrick's Day Parade of Greater New Haven has become one of New England's premier Irish events. It is the largest, single-day spectator event in the State of Connecticut. The Parade was recognized by the Library of Congress in 1999 as the 6th oldest parade in the nation and an outstanding example of American folk life. Large crowds (an estimated 325,000 spectators in 2012), annually attend the parade. Parade day begins with Mass and small reception at St. Mary's Church. A Parade Ball is held on Saturday evening one week prior to parade day.

Photo: 2019 Parade.

Photo: 2019 Parade.

Photo: Parade Route.

History: The First St. Patrick’s Day Parade

In 17th and 18th century Ireland a British rule prohibited public demonstrations by the Irish, except for religious processions. In order to get around that British rule, on St. Patrick’s Day the Irish held “religious processions” after Mass through the streets of Dublin. From this act of defiance against the British, our modern-day parades evolved.

On Jan. 25, 1841, a few Irish immigrants who had settled in New Haven organized the Hibernian Provident Society, the first Irish-American organization in the city. The first roster of the society included the names of 89 members. On Feb. 3, the members adopted a constitution and bylaws and elected as president Bernard Reilly, a native of County Cavan, a road contractor and the first Irishman to be appointed a justice of the peace in New Haven.  On April 17, 1841, the Hibernians made their first public appearance in the procession at the death of President Harrison. The following month the Connecticut General Assembly granted the society's petition for incorporation. In December 1841, the society made plans for the first public celebration of St. Patrick's Day in New Haven.

On Thursday, March 17, 1842, Hibernian Provident Society members, gathered at 8 a.m. in the Society Hall at Chapel and State streets and, led by the New Haven Blues band proceeded to Christ Church, the city's first Catholic house of worship at Davenport Avenue and York Street, to attend Mass celebrated by Father James Smyth. At 2:00 p.m. members marched through the city again to the hall on the third floor of the Exchange Building at Church and Chapel streets for musical entertainment and an oration by William Erigena Robinson, a Scots-Irish Presbyterian who graduated from Yale in 1841. Robinson emphasized the need for all Irishmen to forget their party differences and sectarian bigotry and think only of their shared country and heritage.

Early Years

The New Haven parade did not immediately become an annual event. In 1843, it was first rescheduled because of a northeaster on March 16 and then cancelled because of another snowstorm on March 23. And in 1847, it was canceled because of the disaster of the Great Hunger raging in Ireland. However, during the 1850s the St. Patrick's Day parade became a tradition for New Haven's growing Irish population.

By 1869, 3,000 were marching in the parade with an estimated 6,000 spectators. Inclement weather was a recurring problem, however, and in 1878 the parade was replaced by church services and banquets, one of which was the first annual for a new Irish organization, the Knights of St. Patrick. In 1883, 1884, 1898 and 1921 there were parades, but in other years banquets, dances, theater performances, travelogues about Ireland, rifle shoots and concerts became the usual fare for the observance of St. Patrick's Day in New Haven.

The Modern Parade

In 1956, Father McKeon Division 7 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians led by William F. Gallogly, a native of County Leitrim, set out not only to have a St. Patrick's Day parade again, but to ensure that it would become an annual event. The weather almost derailed those plans with a 60-mile-an-hour blizzard on Friday, March 16, that left New Haven buried in eight and a half inches of snow and four-foot high drifts. Mayor Richard C. Lee and Public Works Director Arthur T. Barbieri assembled a fleet of 21 plows, 14 sand and salt trucks and more than 100 city workers who toiled all night clearing the streets. Their efforts plus sunshine and a 40-degree temperature the next day, made it possible for Grand Marshal William Clancy to step off from the corner of Whalley Avenue and Carmel Street at 2 p.m. on March 17. Connecticut Gov. Abraham Ribicoff and Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien led an all-star cast on the reviewing stand and 45,000 spectators lined the parade route.

A perfect ending to the revival of the parade was the Knights of St. Patrick banquet at the Yale Commons that evening. The guest speaker was Prime Minister John A. Costello of the Republic of Ireland. Costello presented the university with a copy of Ireland's most cherished literary heritage symbol, The Book of Kells.

The reborn parade was an immediate hit. In 1957, with the sun bright and the skies free of clouds, the event drew an estimated crowd of between 75,000 and 100,000. During the latter part of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st century the parade — referred to in some years as "two miles long" — has been one of the most popular annual ethnic observances in New Haven. It remains so 2019.

Two books have been written about the parade: The Wearing of the Green, by Neil Hogan, published in 1992 by the Connecticut Irish-American Historical Society; and, New Haven's St. Patrick's Day Parade, by Joan Moynihan and Neil Hogan, published by Arcadia Publishing in 2006.

In the year 2000, Tom Slater, who was Parade Co-coordinator for a number of years and Grand Marshal in 1990, researched and put together an extensive portfolio of materials about the history of the parade for inclusion in the U.S. Library of Congress Local Legacies Project. That project was part of the Library of Congress celebration of the bicentennial of the United States and enabled individual Americans and organizations to document thousands of grassroots customs, traditions and events in the nation's history. Slater's portfolio includes: a video presentation about the 10 years of the parade in the 1990s, photographs, newspaper clippings, parade brochures, transcriptions of radio interviews and copies of the two books about the parade. The portfolio is a permanent part of the library's American Folklife Center in Washington, D.C., and can be accessed on the library's website:

The parade committee is comprised of approximately 100 volunteers who must be a member of at least one of the sponsoring clubs. Individual donations and corporate sponsorships provide financial support for the Parade. The Associated Irish Societies, Inc. is recognized as a 501 (c)3 charitable organization; donations are tax deductible. Fundraising events are scheduled throughout the year in the Greater New Haven area. The parade web page contains a “Calendar of Events” involving a wide variety of activities.


"St. Patrick's Day Parade." New Haven St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee.
[ view source ]


Dates: March, the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day.

Hours: Parade starts at 1:30 pm

Organizer: Associated Irish Societies d.b.a. New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.

Contact: Executive Chairman


Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade
PO Box 2, New Haven, CT 06510

[ website ]


Additional Information

Date(s):  Started 1842

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