To the parade's rescue comes the Downtown Improvement District, a nonprofit organization that provides services to the city to make it more welcoming.

Written by Sue Gleiter of PennLive.com
Courtesy of PennLive.com

Let the bagpipes play.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Harrisburg is scheduled to go on and will fill the city’s streets on March 18, 2017.

For a short time the parade was in jeopardy of not happening as its longtime organizer, Capital Region Association of Irish and Celts, said it would no longer produce the event.

The group cited dwindling membership, increasing difficulties raising the funds necessary to organize and stage the parade, and a lack of community support as reasons. It had hosted the parade for 16 years.

To the parade’s rescue comes the Downtown Improvement District, a nonprofit organization that provides services to the city to make it more welcoming.

“It’s a big day for downtown and it’s a big day for the city to bring people from all over the region to the downtown,” said Leigh Ann Urban, director of marketing and special events with the group.

The DID had always had a small role in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade as a scholarship sponsor and it helped by cleaning the parade route, Urban said.

When the group learned the Capital Region Association of Irish and Celts would no longer sponsor the parade, the DID evaluated the situation and talked to local businesses, she said. Many business owners indicated the parade is a big draw for the city.

“It’s a great event and opportunity to showcase downtown,” Urban said.

The DID has secured the March 18 date for the parade, which will be held one week after the York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Already, Urban said it has booked several groups including bagpipe players, pipe and drum bands and high school marching bands.

It’s also considering a longer parade route to include more of the downtown business community, she said, adding a meeting will be held with the city and police to make a final determination.

In the meantime, President of the Capital Region Association of Irish and Celts Morgan Williams-Fake said it produced the parade by itself, an undertaking that became too much in recent years.

The group, like many organizations, has experienced dwindling membership. When it was all said and done, about eight members were doing all of the work for the parade, she said.

In addition, it was a challenge to raise funds which covered fees for groups as well as expenses for items like sound equipment and portable toilets. Most of the money was raised through donations and one county grant, Williams-Fake said.

“As long as I have been involved, we never received city money. We paid for police for street closures. So we had the parade in the city but it was never a city event,” she added.

Making it increasingly difficult, she said many businesses such as Ceoltas Irish Pub and Molly Brannigans, that had traditionally supported the parade, have closed.

Williams-Fake emphasized it was a difficult decision for the group to make.

“The parade has always been a labor of love. It has always been all volunteer. There is nobody making any money off of it. We started to feel like the downtown support was not there. We didn’t have as many people in our organization. That labor started to feel like a lot more work and a lot less love,” she said.