Organizers to turn St. Patrick’s Day Parade into a “reverse” parade; downtown bar and restaurant converts to Irish theme

photo by: Andrew White

Crowds line Massachusetts Street to take in the Lawrence St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday, March 17, 2018.

There have been a few times that I’ve wished for a “reverse” St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (Reverse hitting “post” on that Facebook photo, reverse getting too close to the Sandbar float, reverse the hypothesis that all types of green dye are easily washable.) That’s not remotely close to the type of reverse St. Patrick’s Day Parade that will happen in Lawrence this year, but organizers of the major charity event are doing something different to keep the parade alive during the pandemic.

Instead, the type of reverse St. Patrick’s Day Parade that will be happening in Lawrence involves people traveling along a set route to see businesses and even homes that have been decorated for St. Patrick’s Day. In other words, you will go to the parade instead of the parade coming to you.

It is the organizers’ effort to stop a large crowd of people from gathering in downtown Lawrence and breaking a lot of social distancing guidelines in the process. It will be different, but organizers are betting the event will have some of the same flavor of a traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we seek to have a lot of fun,” Janet Cinelli, co-chair of the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, said.

What will a place like the Sandbar — a downtown bar that makes a big deal of its annual St. Patrick’s Day float — do to decorate the front of its business? Or how will The Merc try to replicate its fleet of crazy grocery carts that often is part of the traditional parade? Everybody is working on those details now. Cinelli said the parade committee didn’t yet have a full list of locations that would be participating in the reverse parade. But it is compiling one, and it will publish the list on social media and its website at People who are interested in having their business or home be on the official parade route also can fill out an application at that website.

Look for a list to come out soon, because a reverse parade gets started much sooner than a traditional parade. Instead of all the festivities being confined to one day, the businesses and homes will be decorated for multiple days. Current plans call for the parade route to be decorated from March 5 through St. Patrick’s Day, which is March 17.

There will be a few special events on St. Patrick’s Day itself. For instance, some of the storefronts will have live-action events on those days, whereas other days they’ll be more static in nature. Weaver’s, for instance, will play host to last year’s queen candidates, and this year’s grand marshal, Lawrence businessman Roger Scott, will be on display in the display windows of the department store.

Organizers of the parade also will be having some socially distanced fun at Lucia Beer Garden + Grill, 1016 Massachusetts St., which is temporarily transforming itself into a St. Patrick’s-themed venue. (Hold your tiny leprechaun britches. I’ll have more on Lucia in a moment.)

This will be the second consecutive year that Lawrence hasn’t had a traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade. If you remember, the parade was a last-second cancellation last year as the pandemic was really gaining steam and beginning to disrupt life in March. Last year’s cancellation was the first in 33 years.

The parade committee, though, did hold all of its fundraising events last year before the pandemic started worsening. The parade is a major fundraiser for children’s charities in Lawrence. Despite not having a parade, the group had its best year ever in terms of donations. It split $100,000 in donations — its first six-figure year ever — between three charitable organizations. The 2020 total brought the lifetime donations from the parade to nearly $1.2 million, Cinelli said.

The fundraising portion of the event will go on, although organizers know it may be more difficult to raise money during the pandemic.

“But we know there is a big need out there,” Cinelli said.

The parade committee has several fundraising events set up between now and late March. They include:

• A charity auction that will be both live and virtual. From March 4 through 15, the organization will conduct an online auction. On March 4, the auction will be broadcast live over the organization’s Facebook page as bids are taken for some of the largest prizes. Afterward, bids will be taken online in silent auction format through March 15 on about 70 other items.

• The 32nd annual Shamrock Shuffle will be held, but it will be a choose-your-own-route instead of an organized run. People are still encouraged to go to the parade’s website to pay an entry fee for the run — that’s the charity part — and participants will get a T-shirt. (This format also will make it much easier to lie about your time. It is kind of like “choose your own par” on the golf course.)

• Irish road bowling indeed will be happening. If you don’t know what Irish road bowling is, you must not have many spare cannonballs lying around. The event involves a team of four rolling a 2-pound cannonball around a 1-mile road course at Clinton Lake. The team that takes the lowest number of rolls wins. The event is slated for March 21, but early registrations are recommended because the organizers are limiting the number of teams as a pandemic precaution.

• The organization’s annual bowling tournament (don’t accidentally grab your cannonball) is set for March 27 at Lawrence’s Royal Crest Lanes.


Now, to the information I promised you about Lucia. The downtown bar and restaurant is temporarily converting itself into the Shamrock Shack.

If you remember, Lucia during the Christmas season converted itself into the Snow Globe, which was an over-the-top bar and restaurant full of Christmas decorations. Shamrock Shack is the same idea, except with giant leprechauns (wait, that doesn’t sound right) and other St. Patrick’s-themed decorations. Owner Mike Logan, who also owns The Granada and other local music venues, told me he planned to bring some of his unused concert lights from those venues to create a crazy green light scene.

The bar and restaurant will operate like the Snow Globe, which used a reservation-only system. That will allow for crowd size and social distancing guidelines to be followed.

Look for Shamrock Shack to have specialty Irish-themed cocktails and some unique food offerings. Logan said the area food truck Chef and Smoker would be doing the food at the restaurant. He said the menu was still being developed but would have plenty of Irish twists to it.

Plans call for the Shamrock Shack to be open from March 11 to March 21. Logan said a portion of all proceeds from the restaurant would be donated back to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.

Logan said it probably wouldn’t be the last themed pop-up venue at the Lucia space. He said he was working on another concept for April.

“We are just trying to come up with ideas to keep the boat afloat,” he said of his business, which has suffered because of an essentially complete cancellation of touring music acts. “With this one we are also hoping to make an impact, too, by making a donation.”

Logan said the pop-up themed ventures have been fun, but he doesn’t hide that he would rather be doing music and concerts at his venues, which include The Bottleneck and Abe & Jake’s Landing.

“I miss hosting concerts,” he said. “I miss live music in my life. We are booking some stuff for later in the fall, and just hoping that it materializes in some capacity. But I think there is still a lot to be learned over the next couple of months.”


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