Planning is underway for the return of the Dorchester Day parade after pandemic-related restrictions twice halted a celebration that dates back to 1904.
Sunday, June 5 will mark the first time festivities have taken place in the city’s largest neighborhood since 2019. Coronavirus health precautions have limited large gatherings, but falling infection rates, along with the return of the Patrick’s Day Parade on March 20, gave organizers confidence to proceed with planning.
The parade will begin at 1 p.m. in Lower Mills and end at the intersection of Dorchester Avenue and Columbia Road. Neighborhood after-parties usually take place this afternoon and evening.
“This is going to get us back to normal,” said John Schneiderman, a Vietnam War veteran who served as the parade’s 2019 grand chief marshal, “and what we need is to feel back to normal.”
This will be the 116th annual parade. The main event and preparations usually bring together businesses, local elected officials and residents to raise funds.
“I think we’re all very, very excited to be able to get back out there and take the parade to the streets,” said Kelly Walsh, chair of the parade committee.
“It’s nice to be able to celebrate our community with all of our friends and neighbors,” she added. “I think a lot of people miss that kind of thing.”
For each celebration, the parade committee selects a neighborhood veteran to serve as the grand chief marshal. This year, the honor goes to Louis Pasquale, a 95-year-old World War II veteran. He has been patiently waiting since his 2020 selection to preside over a parade.
Pasquale was unanimously chosen for the job and has been an integral part of Dorchester for over half a century. He hosted bowling nights around the neighborhood, covering the cost for kids who couldn’t afford the entrance fee, according to Schneiderman.
“I think it’s going to be great to see him in the car passing with Chief Grand Marshall’s hat,” Schneiderman said. “You couldn’t find a better person to become the grand chief marshal.”
Planning the fun day is normally a process that takes years. Even though the parade hasn’t taken place for the past two years, the committee has still met for nearly all of its scheduled monthly meetings, Walsh said. This time, the organizers, who are all working on a voluntary basis, will have about four months before the parade.
“I love parade day, but I always know that one of the best times of the day for me as parade committee chair is when I get the text that the last group is on the parade route. , just because you know it was another successful day,” Walsh said.
Gretchen Haase has held the ceremonial title of Mayor of Dorchester since 2019. Due to parade cancellations, it was not possible to appoint a new mayor. With the first Sunday in June fast approaching, she’s helping raise funds before the parade kicks off.
“There are no big pools of money in the Dorchester Day Parade,” Haase said. “It’s about fundraising.”
And although it is an honorary position, Haase has participated in some local events. At a tree lighting ceremony in 2019, Haase said she replaced then-mayor Marty Walsh, who was on a trip to Ireland.
With a ballot packed this fall, the parade will also feature local elected officials and candidates looking to shake hands and ask for votes along the Dorchester Avenue route.
As mayor of Dorchester, Haase said she was losing sight of the effort put into event planning. Calling the community a melting pot, she predicts the first Sunday in June will be “crazy”.
Annissa Essaibi George, the former town councilor-at-large, hosts the Little Miss Dorchester competition, where young contestants write essays and are interviewed by judges to select a winner.
“It’s a time when everyone is out of their homes,” Essaibi George said. “We live at the end of the parade route, and so we always end up having a neighborhood barbecue after the parade, and everyone is welcome.”
This story was originally published by the Dorchester Reporter.