HOLYOKE — With March beginning, the countdown to St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Holyoke has intensified.

March 16 is the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race and March 17 is the 71st Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day parade but the anticipation for the weekend has begun well before now.

Between communities hosting events to pick their colleen, committees getting ready to march in the parade, people getting ready to participate in the road race or anyone looking to just enjoy the weekend, plans are being finalized that helps the economic impact of Holyoke.

Holyoke’s Planning and Economic Development Director Aaron Vega discussed the economic impact of the weekend’s festivities.

Although the parade takes place or “competes” with Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, Vega said the number of people that visit Holyoke throughout the week and weekend usually averages 300,000 people.

“That number obviously fluctuates. Of course, it depends on the weather and the better the weather the more people that come out. The streets are lined and in some ways race day has become even bigger because people travel from around the state and out of the state to join this race,” Vega added.

Vega also acknowledged that the celebration is more than just the St. Patrick’s Day road race or parade.

“Having an event that really doesn’t just last the weekend, it really starts months before with all events in each community, so all that impact is really great to have. Especially this time of the year when it’s a little quite at most banquet facilities and restaurants so it’s always nice to have that impact,” he said.

Vega added, “What’s great about the St. Patrick’s Day parade is it’s really a regional impact. With so many communities participating in the parade, all the events that center around the parade in each community brings in economic impact.”

Between people renting the hall space, catering food, eating at restaurants, buying souvenirs or booking hotels, so many different establishments reap the benefits of parade weekend.

“Of course, parade weekend, the vendors that are set up along the route, downtown on race day and throughout the city on parade day. Whether they are small businesses or the local restaurants setting up for the day, that big boost in revenue in the first quarter of the year which is usually pretty slow for restaurants and bars is a great boost,” Vega said.

According to Vega, businesses on the route downtown receive a lot of business throughout the weekend.

He said, “Whether it’s the Columbian restaurants, the Spanish restaurants, some of our new restaurants or staples, they all benefit from this whole weekend and sometimes the whole week because it’s like a reunion and coming home for so many people.”

Vega added that the economic impact doesn’t just increase in Holyoke or at the road race or parade but throughout the entire city and surrounding areas.

“I think that economic impact is across the board and there a lots of different ways to measure it. It’s great to see this continue and hopefully all the communities get that economic impact,” Vega said.

This year, the Holyoke and Boston parade falls on March 17 which is St. Patrick’s Day and Vega thinks that will only add to the popularity of the event.

“It’s sort of the double influence. It’s like when New Year’s is on a Friday or Saturday. It’s like this makes it easier to go celebrate. Having our parade be on the same day as St. Patrick’s Day I think draws more attention, a lot more focus and we are always in a friendly competition with the Boston parade but having two parades across the state that draw in people from across the region is so great.”

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