Hornell St. Patrick's Day parade route is changing: Here's why
Hornell’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, often billed at the “most organized, unorganized parade known to man,” will follow a slightly different route for its 34th edition on Saturday.
Citing safety concerns and the opportunity to open the route to more spectators, city officials have shifted the parade's lineup location and step-off point from Allen and Main streets to Genesee and Seneca streets, near Community Bank.
The parade typically attracts a sea of green, with thousands packing downtown Hornell for a celebration of everything Irish.
Ever since the first Hornell St. Patrick's Day parade in 1987, the event has gloried in its informality. There is no official organizing body and parade participants do not have to register to take part and march.
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Route 36 crossing eliminated from parade route
For all or most of its years, St. Patrick's Day parade participants have lined up at the Hornell Intermediate School before setting off.
That journey requires marchers to cross Route 36, a four-lane state highway, before continuing up Main Street to the The Main Place Banquet and Conference Center, the ending point of the procession.
According to Hornell Mayor John Buckley, city public safety officials have long expressed concerns about closing Route 36 to traffic while the parade makes its way through.
To pull it off, Buckley said, “you have to have (police) officers stationed right at 36, shutting down traffic intermittently as the parade passes by. So not only is it a safety concern for officers in the roadway on 36, it is also an inconvenience for motorists.”
Buckley also noted, "The state Department of Transportation as well has frowned upon that because it is a state-controlled four-lane."
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The new St. Patrick's Day route will be a familiar one to Maple City parade-goers: it's the same route used for the Independence Day parade in July.
"That parade route has worked extremely well and that starts on Genesee Street right next to Community Bank. It comes down Seneca and goes down Main," Buckley said.
The route provides roughly the same amount of space for staging, is safer and opens up a Seneca Street corridor for spectators, Buckley said.
"If you watch the Independence Day parade, you will notice that we have a large amount of people along Seneca Street," he said.
Parade lineup at 10:30 a.m. on March 11
The Genesee Street parade lineup will begin at 10:30 a.m. on March 11 with the parade starting off at 11. The end point will continue to be at The Main Place.
While spectator numbers may vary from year to year thanks to the unpredictability of late winter weather conditions, Buckley called the annual St. Patrick's Day parade a huge deal for Hornell because it brings throngs to the city.
“So many people come from out of town, even out of state. We have people as far away as Florida make the pilgrimage up here for this event," he said.
'Deacon Bob' named grand marshal of Hornell St. Patrick's Day Parade
At Tuesday's meeting of the Hornell Ancient Order of Hibernians, Sons of Ireland, Buckley named Robert McCormick, better known in the Maple City as "Deacon Bob," grand marshal of the parade.
"Deacon Bob has meant so much to so many over the decades. His positive and spiritual impact on the residents of our beloved community is immeasurable. I'm very excited for Deacon Bob to lead this year's parade through the Maple City," Buckley said in a statement.
McCormick, 73, has been deacon of Our Lady of the Valley Parish for nearly 35 years. He also serves as a chaplain for St. James Hospital. He said being named grand marshal was as unexpected as it was gratifying.
"It was a shock. A complete shock to me,” McCormick said. “I was just knocked off my feet.”
The life-long Hornell resident said he feels "a strong mission to helping those who are infirm, those who are sick, those who are basically in need of God’s love and mercy.”
Neal Simon on Twitter @HornellTribNeal. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on The Evening Tribune: Hornell St. Patrick's Day parade will begin March 11 at a new location