2017-03-02 / Around Town

St. Patrick's Day Parade is Always on Their Bucket List

By James Merolla

You wouldn’t think that the most difficult task surrounding Newport's St. Patrick’s Day celebration would be finding a little green. But the lead-up to this year’s 61st parade has been filled with fundraising dinners, raffles, button sales and shows that won't end until the final steps are taken in the March 11 parade in the shadow of St. Augustin’s Church.

Those last steps usually belong to Dan Titus and Dennis Sullivan – two core members of the parade committee – who shake, rattle and roll large, decorated plastic buckets along the Broadway to Thames Street route, eliciting smiles while gently enticing the drop of coins into the buckets.

Shake, shake, rattle, rattle. The sound of colliding metallic coins in a container alerts parade-goers that the piper has to be paid in order for the entertainers to be compensated.

“It is one of the jobs that people don’t like,” Sullivan says. “But it has to be done. People have to get paid.”

Sullivan and his staff arrive just after 6 a.m. on the morning of the parade to ensure that the barricades, marshals, bands, canines, marchers, floats, and even the portable toilets are in place. He then joins Titus to walk the two-mile route, shaking their pails and asking for money.

“It’s the most thankless job there is,” Titus says. “There used to be four of us. Now there are only two.”

Anyone involved in the annual parade knows that fundraising is the most important assignment of the year. According to organizers, it costs nearly $50,000 per year to stage the popular event.

“More vehicles will cross that [Pell] bridge on March 11 than on any other day all year,” Titus says. “Dennis works one side and I work the other.”

Their high-water fundraising mark is around $2,000, Titus says. The key to eliciting donations? Being loud and persistent.

“One year we used

Salve Regina students,” Titus says. “They only made $15. You have to be vocal.”

Some people dig deeper than others, dropping substantial bills into the red-and-white five-gallon buckets. Block after block, Sullivan and Titus will lift the pails over the front row of spectators to those in the back row, knowing that every little donation adds up. With all that bending, turning and twisting, soreness inevitably creeps in, but only after the counting begins.

The two men start at the beginning of the parade, just behind the Grand Marshals, and finish with the last trucks. Even then, their long day isn't over.

“We have to bust up the barricades and pull apart the reviewing stands,” Sullivan says.

With nine days remaining before the big day, the parade committee would welcome fresh hands, if only to give Sullivan and Titus a reprieve.

Return to top