Annual Corned Beef Dinner adapted for pandemic, turns into big success

All Things Irish

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — “To me, it’s the unofficial start to parade season, the Corned Beef Dinner,” said Jim McGovern, co-chair of the annual fundraiser for the Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade which, once again, isn’t kicking off this year.

But, it’s a tradition that couldn’t be quashed by COVID.

Instead, the Irish spirit blazed bright as folks rallied to adapt the St. Patrick’s Day season event that dates back to 1956.

“We thought long and hard, everyone was doing curbside, so, maybe we could do the same thing – keep the legacy going, offer a safe, socially distant curbside take-out event,” explained Seamus Bohan, also co-chair of the occasion.

Organizers hope they could execute a dinner that would be a reasonable success. But, as luck would have it, they were in for a big surprise.

“Turned out to be a massive undertaking, a huge response,” said Bohan. “We cooked the most corned beef we’ve ever cooked.”

That’s 640 pounds….along with loads of carrots, cabbage and potatoes.

In total, almost 300 take out dinners.

“It’s delicious, yes it is,” says McGovern.

“What was supposed to be a small event just to keep the streak alive and the legacy alive is gangbusters,” said Bohan, also Grand Marshal of the parade that was postponed suddenly last March.

“It was the right thing to do, and you can’t get upset over things you have no control over,” said Bohan.

Moving forward with this year’s Corned Beef Dinner is personal for this former Captain of the New Haven Police Department.

“I’d get dragged along when I was 10, 12 years old, washing the pots and pans,” he said. “This was my father’s event almost since the beginning until he got sick and it means a lot to me to keep his legacy alive and keep this event going in his memory.”

They are only the second father-son duo to serve as Grand Marshals of the parade.

As for the dinner, the food and lay-out seemed to please the crowd….a feeling of normalcy during a period of patience and pride.

“Hopefully pray to God this will all be over and behind us and we’ll get back on Chapel Street like we’re supposed to,” said Bohan, looking forward.

Be sure to tune-in to WTNH at  1 p.m. on Sunday for a celebration of all things Irish and a look back at parades from years past.

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