A great, warm day for the Irish

Floats 'Remembering our Heroes' received considerable applause.
& lt;a href=mailto:jgoodwin@vindy.com & gt;By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR & lt;/a & gt;.
BOARDMAN -- The St. Patrick's Day Parade has been a tradition in the Valley for a quarter of a century, but its more recent tradition of frigid weather that accompanies it came to an end this year.
Sunday's parade carried on with the usual floats, clowns, marching bands, exotic animals and antique cars as in past years. A variety of company vehicles and political vans kept the candy flying through the air.
This year, however, spectators standing in 70-degree weather traded in the usual coats, hats and scarfs for shorts, short-sleeved shirts and sunglasses. The occasional skeptic, trained by years of parade attendance, could be seen carrying a jacket or standing with a sweater knotted around the waist.
The warmer weather did prove to be an inconvenience for little people grabbing candy from passing floats and cars. Without the added pockets on a jacket or coat, they were forced to carry bags to hold the treats.
Many teens, less interested in candy, watched the parade while in-line skating through empty parking lots or bicycling wherever they could find room. Neither candy nor skating seemed to interest their parents; they just wanted to relax and take in the sights.
Damian Billak and his wife, Nicole, had never attended the parade before, but Sunday he sat, feet up and shoes off, in a black foldable lounge chair 3 feet from the curb in dark shades, taking in the sun. The couple recently had a baby boy, Jakob, and wanted to start the youngster off with a taste of the parade in his first year.
Canfield resident Lori Factor and her family have not missed a St. Patrick's Day Parade "in years." Factor said, rain or shine, the family comes out to celebrate and enjoy the parade in conjunction with her Irish mother's birthday, which happens to be on St. Patrick's Day. The nice weather, she said, is just a bonus.
"No matter what, the parade is going to be fun, but the nice weather certainly helps," she said. "It definitely brings people from their cars to the street."
What Factor referred to is a strategic way many seasoned parade attendees beat the usual cold weather. Cars are parked on the side of the road along the parade route and spectators sit and watch the parade from inside a well-warmed vehicle. On Sunday, most of those cars sat empty.
Perfect perch
Some spectators such as Al Vignon of Columbiana and his two sons Dan and Jordan did make use of their vehicles, not for warmth, but a height advantage over others. Vignon watched the parade from the bed of his pickup truck parked in a business parking lot. He had never been to the parade before, but said it will likely become an annual event for the family.
Parade participants were also grateful for the higher temperatures.
Commander Francis Anzelmo of the Knights of Columbus has marched in the parade for at least the last 10 years. He said the last warm parade was several years ago when it was still held in Youngstown. He suspects divine intervention is at play with the weather.
"That year we had a bishop as Grand Marshall, this year we have Bishop Tobin. Ironically, both years, two bishops. That could be a coincidence, I don't know, but maybe they pray for [the nice weather]," he said.
Members of the Rolling Thunder Ohio Chapter 4 come out on motorcycles annually, regardless of the weather. Pat Chittock, president, said this year the group came prepared with long johns, leather chaps and thick jackets. But when it was time to ride, all they needed were simple vests.
Remembering heroes
As in the past, the group presented a float with a cage, representative of prisoners of war. This year, an additional float depicting a wounded soldier surrounded by fellow soldiers was presented. That and other floats dealing with the parade's theme of "Remembering our Heroes" received considerable applause every few feet.
Parade organizer Joyce Kale, said a stiff applause and feedback from spectators is what organizers were hoping for when developing the theme. She said the goal was to remember those everyday heroes in the community.
"With the country going to war and the shuttle incident, we wanted something to tie those two things together. ... We want to honor those police officers and firefighters who are heroes in the community," she said.
According to Kale, the parade was an overall success, with about 5,000 attendees.
"It was packed. This was our 25th anniversary and it was the best parade we've had in at least five years," she said.
& lt;a href=mailto:jgoodwin@vindy.com & gt;jgoodwin@vindy.com & lt;/a & gt;