NEW BUFFALO — St. Patrick himself seemed to be smiling down on New Buffalo during a sun-drenched, green-hued March 7 parade through town.
The inaugural New Buffalo St. Patrick’s Parade went on for well over an hour — kicking off with Vaughn Claire Holleran’s rendition of the National Anthem followed by green smoke released throughout town by volunteers while a group of gleeful little “Leprechauns” scampered over the Whittaker Street Bridge.
The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Road Patrol then wowed the downtown crowd by roaring up and down the main drag featuring a literal stand-up routine.
The eclectic procession went on to offer everything from local veterans carrying the colors and members of New Buffalo’s royal court packed onto a colorful float (one of about 50 taking part), to a long line of classic cars and hot rods, the Culver Pipes & Drums playing the perfect St. Patrick’s Day soundtrack, and representatives of numerous local businesses, police and fire departments, American Legion Posts, service clubs and more.
The Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce entry was appropriately playing the song “Mr. Blue Sky.”
Grand Marshall and Notre Dame Alumni Association Executive Director Dolly Duffy (walking alongside New Buffalo Mayor Lou O’Donnell IV) said “This is so much fun! I can’t believe that this town put a parade together the first time that is so spectacular,” while getting her first look at the jam-packed downtown scene from atop the bridge.
Her sentiments were echoed by many who gathered to enjoy the show.
“I thought it was great,” said Jenna McFarland, who brought her dog, Mario, to the parade. “I was surprised to see so many people turn out ... what a cool thing to get everyone together.”
She added that Mario had a good time meeting some of the many dogs that were in the crowd.
Carlee Tanksley said she had fun walking next to the Miss and Mr. New Buffalo float while handing out stuff to those along the route.
Other St. Patrick’s Parade entries included: baseball players and coaches from New Buffalo Sports, Inc., riding on a Roger’s Wrecker Service truck; a Dooley’s Lake House Pub float and a balloon-waving throng of “Kids of Summer Season” representing the New Buffalo Beach Club; The New Buffalo Yacht Club’s float featuring a 27-foot long all-aluminum 1967 U.S. Army bridge erection boat; representatives of the New Buffalo Lions Club and Rotary Club of Harbor Country; New Buffalo Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Leslie (dressed as a leprechaun); A bedazzled Jeep carrying the 2020 Miss Junior Teen Blossomtime and her Court; a 1940 Ford Deluxe driven by Roger Mitchell in memory of Tron Martin; and a van used to transport families to the Shriner’s Children’s Hospitals.
Business entries included: @ Properties; Barrelhouse at Zorn; Lake Country Inn; Taylor Enterprises; Teachers Credit Union & New Buffalo Savings (carrying a “Better Together” banner); Yellowbird Vacations; NAPA Auto Parts; the Authentic Irish Tours Travel agency; a truck from Lakeshore Demo & Rolloff; The Mariner Network Yacht Sales; Coldwell Banker; Dalton Stanage of Farm Bureau Insurance; Midwest Lending Corporation; Harbor Country Adventures; Round Barn; Villa Nova Pizzeria; a very green float from Harbor Country Hydroponics; Aqua Vacations; and three boats being offered by Basa Marine..
When the final entry (an Amtrak Police vehicle) had made its way past the announcers’ stand at 19 North Whittaker St. John Dooley (along with Dustin Harvey one of the event’s main organizers), said “Wow! I’m overwhelmed ... This is unbelievable for New Buffalo.”
The procession proceeded down U.S. 12 to its end-point at St. Mary of the Lake Church.
“This is amazing!” said parade-goer Nick Fane of Glen Ellyn and Union Pier, adding “Mr. Doooley is a rock star.”
Announcers Jim and Tiffany Bucholt introduced every entry as it reached the stand. Later Chip ran a little leprechaun contest with the top three finishers as follows — 1. Danny Fleming; 2. Gabby Bubb; and 3. Sierra Sheeler.
Tiffany said she felt parade organizers “didn’t hold back on anything,” adding that an enormous amount of time put in by by many people made it all happen.
Organizer Colleen Dooley said a group of about 100 volunteers (including a 12-member Parade Committee) put in a lot of hours to make the “amazing production” a reality.
“We could not have done this without the town’s help and support,” she said.
A well-attended post-parade Shamrock Shenanigans party at Dooley’s Lake House Pub included live music by New Elelemtn, Ginger and Her Baked Goods, MG Bailey, Red Deluxe and the Culver Pipes & Drums.
John Dooley made it clear the 2020 event was just the beginning by saying: “Thank you to all of our generous sponsors, planning committee members, parade participants, volunteers, city officials, vendors and community members! We appreciate your participation, enthusiasm and we couldn’t have done it without everyone! See you next year!”