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In Syracuse, the St. Patrick's Day Parade is One More Step toward Spring

The St. Patrick's Day Parade means many things to many people.

Every year for 33 revolutions around the sun now, thousands and thousands of folks gather around the Clinton Square area and continue the line of green southward down Salina Street as what appears to be thousands of more folks march past.

Pipers and drummers. Dogs and ponies. Trucks and tractors. Vintage cars and clunkers. Octogenarians waving and toddlers grinning. A Broadway-worthy balloon spinning in dance and limbo-ing under cross-street impediments.

It can seem never ending, this Syracuse St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Back in my day with the big daily, I was a regular on the balloon-handling crew, and it seemed to me that we'd wait with our ropes on The Post-Standard plaza forever, staring up at the inflated  Garfield or whatever the character of the year may be until the marshal waved us into the flow of marchers to take that route down South Salina. (The guy and his mother who brought the balloon in their truck, from Pennsylvania if I recall correctly, and then filled the vinyl bag with gas to bring it to life, would always look askance at we gathered volunteers and then explain in detail the pull, gather, release rope technique needed to get their precious property to the finish line.) Through seasonably cold days or unseasonably warm days, it seemed as if we'd wait hours watching other floats and bands and organizations waved in from waiting staging areas on North Salina and Genesee and Erie. In comparison, the half-hour or so we snaked our way through the cheering people seemed like a snap of the fingers. Yes, the crowd loved the balloon.

Saturday, they cheered as a combined crew from Syracuse Media Group and the Home Builders Association worked Bob the Builder down South Salina. My dear wife Karen and I clapped, too, watching with the masses. (She having decided to pass on the crew, though we fondly recall our co-balloonist days and she continues with SMG.)

For us, the parade shall forever mark a benchmark toward Syracuse's march toward spring.

Saturday, we parked in her usual Warren Street garage because it was the most convenient spot. The attendant told us her monthly pass was not good for this Saturday, but the $10 charge seemed worth it compared to the big on-street hunt for a space that would have ensued otherwise. I asked to go up top, a favorite level to take photos with my iPhone 6, and we could hear the revelers one block over. The parade was under way by a half-hour, but we knew we had lots of time. I looked at the snow that remained even though the AXA/Equitable Tower read 43 degrees, and we'd had a week of temperatures over 32, at last.

We walked to the Merchant Commons Building, which houses SMG, and took the elevator to the rooftop. I hoped for a good shot down on the parade, but was blocked by the building next door. I snapped away at the gray but pretty Syracuse skyline anyway. This nine-stories high viewpoint will always make me happy.

Down we went to Salina, where we got our fill of people wearing green and drinking beer, partaking in the event. I was asked by one proud woman to take her picture. Many were watching the parade.  We were glad to see a high school band right off the bat, with flag wavers.  But as I took a photo, one woman wearing a green Vikings-style hat declared to me and my elbow, "Hey, you touched my horn!" When I looked apologetically, I got a smile, not a snarl. Bob the Builder danced past us. Yay! Classic rock station The Rebel had a car painted up, and my old friend, radio host Dave Frisina, was walking with it, and he spotted us and said hello. Irish dancers came next. We were very happy to see Irish dancers.

And then, in about as long as it had taken us when we were balloon-hauling, we had had enough. The 40s was biting into our sweatshirts, and the gray skies were looking more like rain. A couple of times, we did believe we felt a few drops. We returned to her car atop the parking garage, happy that, halfway through March, we'd taken this Syracuse step toward spring.

Bring on March Madness. Ouch, Orange fans, but we do have the bracket games. The Masters on CBS with the green, green grass of Augusta on April 9 means our golf courses will be open. Or not, after this winter. The Syracuse Chiefs' first game at NBT Bank Stadium is Thursday, April  15 ...