Philly’s Parade Celebrations Officially Start
The event was a pre-St. Patrick’s Day Parade kick-off, mingling parade coordinators, this year’s honorees and their families, local Irish notables, and the staff of CBS3, which broadcasts the event every year. It was held at the new CBS3 studios on Spring Garden Street on Thursday night, February 21, and was lavish with food, drink, and music.
But what most people took away from the evening was a story told by the Irish Society’s Edward Costello, one of the 20 honorees of the 2008 parade. It was about “a kid from Fishtown” named George Costello, who was Grand Marshal of the parade in 1992. Ed’s father. And it was a poignant reminder that sometimes a parade isn’t just a raucous collection of marchers, floats, and music. Sometimes, it’s somebody’s dream.
“Two days before the parade, we were at Penn with him and the doctors told us he did not have much time to live,” Costello told the rapt crowd of more than 100. “George being George, he told me, Ed, take care of the family. And then he asked the doctor, ‘so how can I get out of here?’ The doctor said, ‘George, you’re a sick man, you can’t leave.’ And George being George, he said, ‘I’m just a kid from Fishtown, and all I ever wanted to do is be the Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. So I need to get out of here.’” Fortunately, his doctors were Irish “so we got George out.”
His father promised to take it easy, but George being George, he spent the entire parade “standing next to Cardinal Bevilaqua and tipping his hat to every organization that went by.” At the end of the parade, he turned to his son. “Ed,” he said, “it’s time to take me back. I promised the doctors I’d be back and I’m a man of my word. It’s been a grand day. I wish it would never end.’”
“Two weeks later, he died,” said Costello. “But there wasn’t a happier kid from Fishtown.”
Along with Costello, honorees this year include Donegal Association Chaplain Father Joseph McLoone, St. Malachy’s pastor and poet Father John McNamee, teacher Sister James Ann Feerick I.H.M., Justice Seamus McCaffery, the Donegal Association and parade committee’s Kathy McGee Burns, Perry Casciato of CBS3, The Irish Immigration Center’s Tom Conaghan, Finnigan’s Wake owner Mike Driscoll, Hibernian Hunger Project founder Bob Gessler, and three couples recognized for their many contributions to the Irish community, Barney and Carmel Boyce, Michael and Jeannie O’Neill, and James J. and Megan White IV.
Lifetime achievement awards are going to Edward Kelly and John Stanton, and special posthumous honors are being award to two Philadelphia police officers killed in the line of duty: Gary Skerski and Charles “Chuck” Cassidy.
Grand Marshal is Jack McNamee, a 30-year board member, past president and past treasurer of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association.
The parade is scheduled for Sunday, March 9. It will be aired from noon to 3:30 PM on CBS3 and live on the CBS3 home page at www.cbs3.com. It will be replayed on CW Philly 57 on March 17—the real St. Patrick’s Day—from 11 AM to 2:30 PM.