Friday, February 12, 2010

Save the Parade, Celebrate the Tradition

For more than thirty years, the St. Patrick’s day parade has been an integral part of the Salt Lake community. Many schools make floats for the parade, and many students (including Judge students) are in the parade. It has been a fun way to celebrate an important historical and religious figure. The parade is organized and funded by the Hibernian Society of Utah, a non-profit organization that strives to preserve Irish history and culture within the state.

Unfortunately, there was a major speed bump for this year’s St. Patrick’s day parade. The city had proposed billing event organizers with costs for services, including the right to parade routes, adding up to over $7,500. To put this in perspective, this exceeds the total amount of dues raised by the society in a year, and this is not their only event; they sponsor many other events throughout the year. Although this price tag may seem unobtainable, the Hibernian Society did not give up. They immediately launched the “Save the St. Patrick’s Day Parade" campaign which included negotiating with the city council, and increased fundraising. As part of the increased fundraising, a concert was planned for February 5 in the Judge auditorium.

All other parades and events that take place in Salt Lake City are also dealing with this problem. They were in talks with the city and no progress was made, until the Days of '47 began to contemplate their options, one being relocating the parade to another area, such as Sandy City. Before moving the parade a deal was struck. The Days of '47 argued that this was a violation of their First Amendment rights, specifically their right to assemble. They referenced other St. Patrick’s day parades in other cities and states.

The Hibernians also applied for a “free expression permit”; it was granted, and the St. Patrick’s day parade was saved. Many parades have filed for the “free expression permits," arguing their parades are not “special events," but “free expression events," like protests. Despite the success in the parade aspect of the issue, still left in the cold are every other “special event," such as the Farmers’ Market, and the Utah Arts Festival.

The Hibernian Society still hosted the Irish concert, despite the change in circumstances. The Irish-rock band Swagger performed. This concert was originally planned as a save the St. Patrick’s Day parade event, but later took on a different theme. It was still a fundraiser for the parade, though, as it was a celebration of the salvation of the parade.

There is a great lesson to be learned from the whole mess. It is that one can never be complacent, although our government is here to serve the people it often gets sidetracked in their willingness to throw tradition away just to help balance a budget. This shows that anybody with strong enough of a will can have an impact. Always contact your representatives with your opinion and urge them to represent you, or in this case put history and tradition before a quick buck. Many say that every letter a senator or congressman receives represents a thousand constituents.

Another step to assure the City Council, that they have made the right decision, and never even ponder resurfacing these recovery costs, is to contact the City Council and let them know we stand by the parade, that they made the right decision, and perhaps offer a voice for the “special events” that are still dealing with the issue. The St. Patrick’s day parade is our parade, and it is our responsibility to help protect the parade.

If you have ever been in, helped prepare for, seen or have respect for history and tradition, then it is asked that you help preserve this rich bit of history by coming to the parade on Saturday, March 20.

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