WESTFIELD — This year’s Sons of Erin float for the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade on March 17 is based on “The Unicorn,” a song by Shel Silverstein, made popular by the Irish Rovers.

The float, on which this year’s colleen Sydney Drugan and her court of Grace Hanna, Brie Kelly-Barrett, Katelyn Jones and Riley McDonnell will ride, depicts Noah’s Ark with “green alligators and long-neck geese; some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees; some cats and rats and elephants.” What is missing, however, is the unicorn.

Sons of Erin float committee member Mary Jane McMahon shows off one of the animals going on this year’s Sons of Erin float for the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade, which tells the story in the Irish Rovers song “The Unicorn.”
Reminder Publishing photo by Amy Porter

According to the song, when Noah called for the animals to line up two-by-two and enter the ark, the unicorns were “hiding, playing silly games; kicking and splashing while the rain was pouring,” and they missed the call. They thus died in the Biblical flood, which is why no unicorns survive today.

“The unicorn was playing and missed out on the ark,” said Mary Jane McMahon, a member of the float committee.

Not to worry, the unicorn will be marching behind the float in the parade, portrayed in costume by 12-year-old Olivia Margaret Mack, granddaughter of Sons of Erin member Joe Dupell.

McMahon said children are familiar with the song, which is played at special events and will be playing as the float rolls by.  She said they make hand motions for the alligators, monkeys, rats and cats, and the “loveliest of them all … the unicorn.”

On the float, the alligators will open and close their jaws, thanks to electronic magic by this year’s Sons of Erin Pat on the Back award winner, Mike Conroy.

Mary Jane McMahon’s husband, Mike McMahon, this year’s Irish Man of the Year and a founding member and director of the Sons of Erin, was also working on the float on March 9 as the committee put finishing touches on it in the distribution center at Westfield Gas & Electric.

Mary Jane McMahon said WG&E, which has donated space for float-building and storage for more than 20 years, has been very generous with sharing its home. She said the floats are possible due to the support of the Sons of Erin, generous individual donors, and fundraising by the Women’s Auxiliary.

This is the fifth float McMahon is working on, and said the work on the floats is always a team effort.  Helpers Gail Britton and Jeannie Pescitelli and Irish Woman of the Year Theresa Fitzgerald said McMahon is the one who comes up with the ideas and theme.

The Sons of Erin floats have been very successful in the Holyoke parade, winning first place last year for best Irish float, and the year before winning first place in the open category.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Britton.

As for the parade, Mary Jane McMahon said everyone is hoping for a sunny day with no wind. “We hope the girls have fun,” she said.

The parade begins around 11:10 a.m. on Northampton Street (Route 5) in Holyoke, ending on High Street downtown. It will be televised live on WWLP, Channel 22, and wwlp.com.

amyporter@thewestfieldnews.com | + posts