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Helena gets its green on for the holiday

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HELENA — A long, green line in the middle of the road stretched through much of the hamlet and a green steel bridge just off Main Street was adorned with shamrocks Saturday for the community’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

And at Bobby-I’s tavern, a small restaurant and bar on Main Street, a large crowd of people wearing their finest green clothes assembled in the parking lot. Inside the tavern, which would serve as the hub for many of the day’s activities, were Robert W. and Irene F. Carter, who own the bar and coordinate the yearly events.

“This has been going on for 40 years,” Mr. Carter said, adding that he and his wife have been in charge of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration for the past 14 years. They decided to add a Relay for Life fundraiser to the festivities six years ago.

“It’s a gathering of friends, and we’re all helping a good cause,” Mrs. Carter said.

“We’re saving lives here today,” added parade emcee Jimmy Gurrola.

The annual parade included fire departments, rescue squads and floats from many area businesses and communities. One float carried special guests Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and Garfield.

“We even have a monkey,” Mr. Gurrola announced as the float went by.

“We’ve always had a lot of Irish people living in Helena, and a long time ago they decided to do something special,” said Mr. Gurrola, who has been announcing the parade for about 10 years. “It’s an honor for me to do this for Helena and for Relay for Life.”

Following the parade, the crowd shifted back to Bobby-I’s, where traditional corned beef and cabbage was being served, with entertainment provided by Bonnie and the Border Boys.

“We’ll serve 25 or more corned beef dinners,” Mrs. Carter said. “We also have $2 hot dogs and hamburgers, and that’s what most people get.”

She estimated that 200 to 300 people would walk through the eatery’s doors, easily making this the busiest day of the year.

“It’s a good day for the whole family,” Mrs. Carter said. “We encourage people to bring their children, and we encourage children to participate in the parade.”

Kevin Bessy, who grew up in Massena but now lives in Ottawa, brought his son, Finn, to the parade.

“This will be his first parade. We’re all excited,” Mr. Bessy said as he and Finn sat in the bed of his pickup truck.

Mr. Bessy said his family was in town visiting Finn’s grandmother, who lives in Massena. “There’s no parade in Massena, so I figured we would come here,” he said.

Following the parade, Jack Cheesman, 6, Massena, said he had a good time.

Jack was attending his first St. Patrick’s Day parade. When asked what his favorite part was, he didn’t hesitate to answer.

“The candy,” he said, holding up a bag that would have had a hard time containing even one more piece.

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