Lisa Conley, firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-213-5308 Published 12:35 p.m. ET May 7, 2018 | Updated 6:00 p.m. ET May 7, 2018
Thousands gather, adorned in green garb, for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade along Fifth Avenue South on Saturday, March 17, 2018, in Naples. Luke Franke/Naples Daily News
The Naples City Council discussed changes to the annual St. Patrick's Day parade during a workshop Monday about whether the city has too many special events.
The purpose of the workshop was to review the 351 special events that occur in the city each year and talk about which ones may need to go.
Several councilors said the parades need to be revisited, especially the St. Patrick's Day parade, which the city doesn't organize.
City staff said they will speak with the St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers and make their recommendations to the council. The council will consider the recommendations at a future meeting.
"I've really gotten a lot of negative feedback about the St. Patrick's parade, the fact that it's much too long and not very creative at all and boring, and yet it's been an institution," Councilwoman Ellen Seigel said. “And I’ve never found the throwing of candy to be in the image of Naples.”
Councilwoman Michelle McLeod agreed.
"I absolutely love parades, but I do think (they) have become stale and boring, and I really think we need to tighten up what we're expecting," she said.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held Saturday, March 17, 2018, in downtown Naples. Ashley Collins/Naples Daily News
The St. Patrick's Day parade has been a staple in the community since 1977 and has grown to become the largest privately funded parade in the state. Event organizers estimated that more than 40,000 people attended this year's parade.
The longevity of the event doesn't necessarily mean much, however, Vice Mayor Gary Price said.
"I'm not a fan of these legacy events. Just because we have an event doesn't mean it's a good event forever," Price said. "I think that if we're going to stay ahead of what we want for our community, it's not going to be driven by doing things the way we've always done them."
City staff couldn’t say how many people or groups participate in the St. Patrick's Day parade because the city isn't involved in its planning, but some council members said it's clearly too many.
"It seems that the entries have just grown and grown and grown, and it just seems that if somebody wants to get in the parade and decorate up, that we've let them in," Mayor Bill Barnett said.
However, Michael “Moose” O’Regan, co-owner of Paddy Murphy’s on Fifth Avenue, doesn't see that as a negative thing.
“We’ve been here for 20 years, and the parade has gotten bigger and bigger every year,” he said. “It does a lot of good for everybody on the street, not just us. It'd be a shame if they got rid of it."
Council members cited concerns about traffic and parking problems associated with the parade and other special events, including Cars on 5th, but O’Regan said the events don't create new problems; instead, they highlight the city's existing problems.
“Any time you have that many people coming to Fifth there’s going to be traffic problems," he said. "I think the lack of parking down here causes that, not just the actual events. What are they going to do, cancel every event that brings people?”
The city limits the entries for its Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade and Fourth of July parade to 80. The Christmas parade has been bigger, with up to 120 entries.
Barnett said that if the St. Patrick's Day parade organizers are willing to scale back the event, then that may alleviate a lot of the associated problems.
"We all love the parades. We aren't killing parades; we're overburdened," he said. "And that (parade) just goes on for eternity."
The St. Patrick’s Day parade is organized by the Naples St. Patrick Foundation, a nonprofit foundation. The foundation has awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships to high school music programs and for college scholarships over the past six years.
Mike Joynt, the foundation's "Godfather of all things Irish" and the man who has made the three Celtic crosses that have graced the St. Patrick’s Day parade for at least 20 years, offered another solution.
“I think (the city) should bring the other ones up to the size of the St. Patrick’s Day parade,” he said.
City staff also recommended implementing criteria for entries for all parades.
"In other communities there is a barometer in terms of what the submission looks like and what the expectation is," said Dana Souza, the city's community service director. "We've looked at some of the entries go by us and we think, 'How did those get in?' "
Councilman Terry Hutchison said he isn’t opposed to making changes to the parades but that the council needs to be careful with just how many changes it makes.
“It brings together different people from different walks of life. Where else are we going to see that?” he asked. “Let’s not let the pendulum swing too far the other way so we stop making it fun and stop developing all demographics of our town.”
Thousands gather, adorned in green garb, for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade along Fifth Avenue South on Saturday, March 17, 2018, in Naples. (Photo: Luke Franke/Naples Daily News)
City Council Contact Information
Mayor Bill Barnett email@example.com
Vice Mayor Gary Price firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda Penniman email@example.com
Reg Buxton firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle McLeod email@example.com
Ellen Seigel firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Hutchison Thutchison@naplesgov.com