If Michael Bradley had a personal theme song for this year’s long-postponed Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade, it would be “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
That’s because the Grand-Marshal-in-waiting for two years really doesn’t want to walk alone.
“I was uncomfortable with the spotlight on me,” says Bradley, who has been parade director—think “maestro”—for 17 years before he was selected for the honor. “So I invited all the other Grand Marshals and the families of the ones who passed to come and march with me. I wanted to get across that it’s all about ‘us,’ not just about me. I think it’s a great idea. I come up with one of those every once in a while,” he adds, laughing.
Anyone he might have missed is welcome to wear their sash and march on Sunday, March 13.
In fact, he says, he only accepted the grand marshal honor so his elderly parents, Mickey and Bernie Bradley, could be there to see it. They attend every year with dozens of family members who fill a rented trolley that rolls along the 20-plus block parade route. “The whole family is there. It’s a nice way to share something my parents started with us when we were kids,” he says. This year, his granddaughter Quinn, daughter of his son, Mickey, will be marching . . . well, dancing in the parade with the McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance.
The parade has always been a family affair for the Bradleys. You might even call it the family business (their second, in addition to Bradley Flooring, founded by his parents, and which Michael Bradley, the eldest of their eight children, now runs).
“My son Colin has actually been running the parade for the past few years,” says Bradley. These days that involves coordinating with the local TV station that broadcasts the parade. For the parade’s 250th anniversary, that’s The CW Philly (CBS3). Fox29 had to bow out due to staffing issues, though longtime Fox (and previously CBS) parade commentators Kathy Orr and Bob Kelly will be part of the festivities, if not in the control booth.
“Colin was a TV anchor for Penn State and worked for ABC News in Maryland so he knows what he’s doing,” says Bradley.
Colin is also working with the city, Homeland Security, and the FBI to make sure the parade route is secure. Safety measures have been ramped up since the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. “And there have been different curve balls every week because of Covid,” says Bradley. “But he’s been there long enough helping me. He’s used to juggling lots of balls. I think he’s got my ADD (attention deficit disorder).”
This year, though, he and Colin had to interrupt the juggling to toss parade duties back and forth. Colin and his wife became new parents on January 4, but little Brooks Bradley developed an eye infection that sent him to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “I took over for him then,” says Bradley. Then Bradley and his wife, Linda, sold their house and moved to a hotel. “I can’t find anything, but Linda is aces. She never got stressed out.”
Despite the difficulties—and there have been others—Bradley is motivated by his belief that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has a deep meaning for the people who attend.
“Parades are important,” he says. “That’s what makes what we do as a board, what Colin does important. I always tell him that this is somebody’s first parade, and it’s also going to be somebody’s last and their family is going to remember that.”
Meet Michael Bradley and the 2020 and 2022 Ring of Honor this Sunday, March 6, at Springfield Country Club, 400 W. Sproul Road, Springfield, PA for a fundraiser from 3 to 7 PM. In addition to live Irish music, food, and a cash bar, there will be a contest for the Best Dressed Irish Child (6 and under) and gift baskets.
The Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade starts at noon on Sunday, March 13, starting from JFK Boulevard and proceeding around City and Hall down Market Street with the performing area at Independence Mall. This follows a Mass at 9:15 AM at St. Patrick’s Church, 242 S. 20th Street in Philadelphia. CBS3 anchors Jim Donovan and Janelle Burrel will be commenting live on the parade for The CW Philly 57. If you miss the parade or the TV coverage, you can also catch it on CBS3.com which will stream it on St. Patrick’s Day from 9 AM till Noon.