New Haven’s 168 year-old St. Patrick’s Day parade is going sober this year.
The New Haven police will be enforcing the city’s open-container laws during the March 14 parade, Parade Coordinator Eileen Donadio said Tuesday. If anyone is seen drinking alcohol in public, he or she will be immediately arrested, Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said. This directive — which comes in the wake what city officials called last year’s drunken debauchery — is intended to make the parade more family-friendly, Donadio said.
“It’s quite a wild affair,” Clark said of the parade. “But last year was the worst behavior that anybody had seen: thousands and thousands of people who were very drunk and behaving in very bad ways.”
Every parade in downtown New Haven is intended to be a family event, but the St. Patrick’s Day Parade had recently become an event that “you didn’t want to bring your kids to,” Clark said.
Ten years ago, spectators would drink but act civilly, Clark said. Last year, a spectator smashed the window of the Subway sandwich shop on Chapel Street, and an ambulance had trouble reaching a woman that passed out on a nearby sidewalk, the New Haven Register reported.
“Watching drunk firemen marching used to be funny,” she said. “There was something about the out-of-control stuff last year that wasn’t funny.”
Parade organizers said they support this year’s crackdown, adding that they have planned several new exhibitions for the parade. She declined to elaborate on what the acts will be, but she said most old favorites will return to the parade, which regularly features firemen and Irish-themed marchers. She said she will announced the acts to rest of her parade committee next Monday.
As the largest single-day spectator event in Connecticut, the St. Patrick’s Day parade is sponsored by four local Irish societies: the New Haven Gaelic Football and Hurling Club, Knights Of St. Patrick, Ancient Order Of Hibernians and West Haven Irish Club.
But to raise the funding required to run the parade, Irish pubs from the Greater New Haven area are currently hosting fundraisers throughout February. (Last year, the parade cost $110,000 to run. On the parade’s finances, Donadio referred comment to St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee Chairman Walter Nester, who did not immediately return a phone request Wednesday evening.)
“They asked me [to host a fundraiser], and I’ll do whatever I can for the parade,” said Dan Carr, owner of Randall’s Restaurant in West Haven. The restaurant hosted a “trivia night” fundraising Tuesday in which about 60 to 70 people participated.
“I love a parade,” he added. “It’s a good thing to do, supporting the community.”
This fundraising push is relatively new for the parade. Several years ago, because of financial troubles, City Hall ceased to provide free police support and cleanup to all events, Clark said, so parade organizers needed to raise more funds to compensate for police overtime.
New Haven Police Department spokesman Joe Avery did not immediately respond to an e-mail and phone request for comment Tuesday evening.