CHICOPEE — The Chicopee St. Patrick’s Parade Committee hosted its annual President’s Dinner at the Portuguese American Club on Feb. 3.

Special guests of honor included 2024 President Meghan Balakier, Parade Marshal, Fr. William Tourigny, Woods Award Recipient Mary O’Brien Rodowicz and Atkinson Award Recipient Bernardino’s Bakery.

The Chicopee St. Patrick’s Parade Committee is responsible for the Colleen Contest, float building and all supporting events related to Chicopee’s participation in Holyoke’s St Patrick’s Day Parade which takes place on March 17.
Balakier is responsible for overseeing several events leading up to the city’s participation in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Balakier said she is proud of her Irish heritage and that she looks forward to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade every year, especially this year when she will lead the committee as its president.

She was a member of the 2008 Colleen’s Court, and joined the committee in 2019.

Since then, she has served as vice president, Colleen Contestants’ Tea co-chair and in various capacities on other subcommittees.

In addition to her work on the Parade Committee, Balakier’s resume also includes a long list of community and civic activities.

Tourigny said he was delighted to be chosen as this year’s Parade Marshal and looks forward to leading the Chicopee contingent as Parade Marshal in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17.

After being assigned to multiple parishes in Massachusetts, Tourigny returned to Ste. Rose de Lima as pastor in 2005 and for the last several years, Tourigny and the parish have hosted the Chicopee Parade Committee, Colleen and Court for their annual Mass.

Tourigny officially will retire from his full-time duties on March 1.

He will continue to perform priestly ministries on a part time basis, while enjoying more time with family, friends, and his favorite leisure activities of hiking, skiing and traveling.

The Woods Award is given to a committee member for exemplary service and this year’s recipient was Mary O’Brien Rodowicz.

When notified that she was this year’s recipient, Rodowicz said, “I am overwhelmed and most appreciative. For several years, I had the pleasure of marching with the late Jack Woods, for whom this award was named. I will think of him when we step off once again on March 17, and I am honored to follow in the footsteps of the many previous recipients. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I look forward to a beautiful parade day.”

She has lived in Chicopee since 1983.

Shortly after settling in the area, she said began going to the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade, eagerly looking forward to seeing the famous “Chicopee” banner pass by each year.

In 2008, Rodowicz joined the Chicopee St. Patrick’s Parade Committee.
Since then, she has served on the subcommittees that organize the Colleen Ball, Candidates’ Tea, annual committee Mass and Scholarships.

She is currently on the Board of Directors and has coordinated the publicity since 2011.

This year, the Chicopee Parade Committee also recognized Bernardino’s Bakery with the 2024 George and Buddy Atkinson Award, given to a person or persons who are non-committee members but have supported the committee through hard work, sponsorship or other contributions.

Bernardino’s Bakery has been an establishment in Chicopee since 1918.
Manny Silva and Fernando Goncalves are set to retire so they are passing the torch to their sons, Steven Silva and Sergio Goncalves, to continue Bernardino’s trend of promoting heritage and the community at their store in Chicopee.

All four will represent Bernardino’s in the parade on March 17 and they added, “We love how Chicopee’s Parade Committee shares the same values as our business, support for our local community, and a love for heritage. We truly appreciate the recognition the Parade Committee shows us by presenting us with the George and Buddy Atkinson Award.”

For more information on upcoming events and fundraisers, readers can check out the Parade Committee’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/chicopeespc.

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