Janet Higgins, who has served as the president of the Syracuse St. Patrick’s Parade since 2006, announced her retirement at a recent meeting of the Parade Board.
Higgins’ involvement with the parade reaches back to its founding in 1982. Higgins and her husband, Lieutenant Ed Higgins, worked with Nancy Duffy, legendary reporter for NewsChannel9, and a small group of friends to establish the parade as a celebration of Syracuse’s Irish heritage and culture.
During Higgins’ tenure she saw the parade through many challenges along the parade route including a collapsing building, water main breaks and extreme weather. She often commented that the parade was like the postal service; it went forward come rain, sleet or snow. When the parade finally came up against a challenge that led to a two-year hiatus – the COVID-19 pandemic – she orchestrated a successful comeback for the parade’s 40th anniversary of its founding in 2022.
Higgins’ strong leadership within the parade committee and her strong relationship with individuals throughout the community made it possible for the parade to evolve into the community institution it is today. While she was at the helm, the parade gained 501(c)3 status and established the St. Patrick Hunger Project. Higgins’ support was instrumental in establishing the Hunger Project, founded by Bill Gooley, John Young and Richie Walsh. The mission of the St. Patrick Hunger Project
is to help support a community network of hunger-related agencies in meeting the food needs of the individuals and families. By educating Central New Yorkers about An Gorta Mor in Ireland (The Great Hunger), the Hunger Project highlights efforts of hunger-related agencies all year, especially during the months of February and March when food supplies at the agencies are often lower.
While conscious of the parade’s history and traditions, Higgins was always careful to plan for its longevity. She always encouraged new and younger members of the committee to become involved and voice their opinions and ideas, believing firmly that the parade would be better equipped to handle changing times if many viewpoints were considered.
Upon her retirement, Higgins said that heading up the parade had been one of the greatest joys of her life, and that it seemed appropriate to retire after 17 years, in part because St. Patrick’s Day is March 17th. Vince Christian, formerly the vice president, was elected as the fourth president.