March 9th saw waves of green washing over the streets of Downtown Norwich as thousands of people flooded the streets to watch the inaugural Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade was inspiration of business owner Scott Capano who has wanted a Saint Patrick’s Parade since the opening of his business the Harp and Dragon in 2006. His idea was to have a downtown centric parade that would bring people to the downtown businesses and provide a fun event for citizens of Norwich and give residents of other towns a reason to visit.
A parade committee was formed in November of 2013 and businesses and organizations such as the City of Norwich Police Department, City of Norwich Fire Department, Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce, Norwich Community Development Corporation and local businesses such as the Harp and Dragon and Chacers Bar and Grill were tapped to be on the committee. New city resident Jeanne Ireland, previously from western MA, was happy to be involved and was a wealth of knowelge from her previous ork with the Holyoke Parade which has over 25,000 marchers every year. Norwich’s new mayor Deberey Hinchey was very enthusiastic about the idea and wrote a resolution for Norwich to have a Saint Patrick’s parade saying that it recognizes the Saint Patrick’s Parade as a City of Norwich function and invites participants and spectators to come to Norwich and enjoy the ambiance provided by the downtown event.
The parade had over 700 marchers in its first year and brought over 3,000 people into the city for the parade and subsequent street festival. What does all this have to do with economic development you may ask? Plenty! A city is not all about events, it’s about people and businesses, but, events like the Saint Patrick’s Parade and Festival (fully funded by private dollars, not by city finances) show vibrancy. The sponsorships display that local businesses are willing to invest back into their community and that people are willing to come to Downtown Norwich if there is a reason. This is what potential investors and business people need to see. The ensuing festival gave local small businesses a chance to show everyone what they had to offer, and Downtown’s newest small business Encore Justified (102 Main St.) had their grand opening. So, while events don’t mean businesses will crop up magically overnight, they do create a sense of vibrancy and community that successful business people look for in their next potential business locations and create an enjoyable atmosphere for citizens to live, work and play.
To view photos from the parade, get more information or you would like to sponsor next year’s parade (it’s never too early) visit their website norwichparade.com. If you have an idea for an event or want to volunteer your time on other events, we would love to hear from you!