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For an event that featured 15,000 marchers, 27 floats, and drew more than 350,000 spectators, it’s amazing how seamless the 2014 Holyoke St. Patrick’s parade went last Sunday.
People enjoyed the bands, the floats, the colleens, and even Team Hoyt, but they don’t see all the planning that goes into the event–planning from a dedicated group who volunteer most of their free time to making sure this western Massachusetts tradition continues to be as popular as it is. This year, the planning began with parade committee president Jane (Coughlin) Chevalier ’82.
“My dad was a parade committee member, so St. Patrick’s Day was like Christmas in our house,” Jane said. “It’s in our blood.”
Jane joined the parade committee 15 years ago to keep the family tradition alive and this year she will complete her one-year term as president. Her father, Edward “Pop” Coughlin, was a long-time committee member and even served as Grand Marshall in 1992.
“The people on the committee are very passionate about what they do. As president, I get to see the enthusiasm, the dedication. It’s amazing,” she said.
Despite the brisk weather this year, both the road race and parade drew large crowds. Jane said that the parade has maintained its popularity because the people of Holyoke love heritage.
“If you married someone from out of the area, you might fight over where you spend Thanksgiving or Christmas, but on St. Patrick’s Day you are going to Holyoke,” she stated.
An elementary education and sociology double major, Jane worked at a daycare center at Mont Marie after graduation before operating her own family daycare out of her home for the next 13 years. Later she became a victim witness advocate in the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office and now works as director of the Victim’s Witness Unit in the Hampden County office.
Jane still keeps in touch with Kay Reagan, SSJ, Ph.D., and often sees her at community events.
“You never really leave the Elms,” Jane said.