Jan Griffith Named Grand Marshal
of 2017 Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day Parade
Jan is the First Parade Organizer of the Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day Parade
Pittsburgh, PA, February 2, 2017 – The Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee announced that the Irish Society for Education & Charity, Inc., has named Jan Griffith its 2017 Parade Grand Marshal. The Irish Society oversees the parade which will take place in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, March 11, 2017 starting at 10 a.m.
Jan has served as the first official Parade Organizer, responsible for managing everything from new and existing parade entries, to planning logistics for the parade itself. Her husband Terry of 47 years was the parade's Grand Marshal in 1999.
She has been a member of the parade committee since 1992, and has served in many capacities prior to her current role as Organizer.
“I started out addressing envelopes for the Float Committee, moved to Promotions where I baked scones and made up baskets to take to radio stations,” Jan said. “In 2000, our Chief Marshal at the time, Jim Green asked me to type up the lineup and announcer's notes. The next year, we decided there was a better way and created a computer database, which I took that over at that point.”
The position and Jan's indispensable role expanded from there. As the annual event's Organizer, Jan is responsible for managing the participation of 23,000 participants. This involves identifying current entries, assigning marching order, assigning new entries to their appropriate spot in the parade, and of course, dealing with last-minute changes right up until the parade starts.
She creates the scripts used by Reviewing Stand Announcers on parade day, acting as a spotter for them as the parade proceeds past the judges and other dignitaries. And she works with her husband Terry as co-administrator of the parade's Facebook page.
She has represented the parade in media interviews, as a speaker in the community, and in 2012, she served as color commentator when WPXI-TV broadcast live from the parade. Of course, one benefit of serving on the Parade Committee is the chance to participate. She remembers marching in the parade during the “Blizzard of '93.”
“We left the house that morning having heard the snow warning but the Parade must go on,” she said. “When we arrived at the line-up area at the Civic Arena, there were others as passionate about continuing the tradition. Most of the bands had cancelled along with other groups. By the time I found my LAOH Division, Division #32 Carnegie, the snow was coming down harder and harder. When we began marching we saw a few hardy spectators. They applauded us, we applauded them. The City provided snow plows positioned between every several units. Believe me, it was the quickest parade, everyone marched in double time. It didn't seem that cold, maybe it was the excitement of doing something as wild as marching in a blizzard.
“Afterwards we continued the festivities at Murphy's Pour House and finally got home around 9:30 that night. I remember looking out the car window on West Liberty Avenue and seeing someone cross-country-skiing next to us.”
Throughout the year, Jan is involved in other Irish-heritage activities that include serving as a staff member with the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, where she serves as coordinator of the Irish Dog Exhibit. A lifelong animal lover, Jan is an active member of the Pittsburgh Area Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier Club. She has owned and fostered a many Irish Wheaten Terriers over the years, and been active with WIN, a Wheaten rescue group that fosters, places and transports rescued terriers.
“In 1999 when Terry was the Grand Marshal, it was truly a family affair, where our beloved Wheaten Finbar rode in the Grand Marshal's car with Terry,” she said. “That was the first year that we arranged for a group of Wheatens to participate.”
She has served as the producer of several theatrical projects including: “The Exiles,” a play written by Jim Curran and performed at Etna's Blarney Stone in 1995; “1916, A Commemoration,” compiled with her husband Terry and performed locally and in Ohio many times throughout the 1990s; “Par-aid 93,” a recorded fundraiser for the parade; and “Prayers in Irish,” which was commissioned by the Ancient Order of Hibernians State Board.
She has served as a volunteer, managing vendors and Irish groups for the annual Irish Day at South Park, an event that was held for several years. She also managed vendors at the National AOH/LAOH convention, coordinating logistics between hotel staff and event vendors.
From 2002 to 2004, Jan was President of the Western Chapter of the Irish American Unity Conference (IAUC).
Jan, whose maiden name is Allen, traces her ancestral Driscoll family roots to County Cork. She and Terry can be found in local Irish pubs and festivals throughout the year where Terry performs. They have one son, Damon Griffith, who lives with his wife Sabrina in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Their daughter Grannia Devlyn Griffith lives in New Orleans.
About the Parade
Pittsburgh's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade will take place on Saturday, March 11, 2017, with the same Downtown parade route it has followed in recent years, featuring over 23,000 participants from Pittsburgh-area marching bands, politicians, and a host of Irish-heritage groups. The event begins at 10 a.m., with the route stretching from the intersection of Liberty Avenue and 11 th Street (Greyhound Bus Station), to the reviewing stand located Downtown on the Boulevard of the Allies at Stanwix Street.
The event celebrates Pittsburgh's Irish heritage and is normally attended by 200,000-plus people, all “Irish for the day.” On a warm, sunshine-filled parade day, 350,000 have attended the event. The parade has enjoyed a 147-year history in the city, having occurred non-stop since 1950. Many Pittsburghers remember that not even a blizzard in 1993 was able to keep Pittsburgh's Irish from marching on. According to U.S. Census data, the Pittsburghers who claim Irish heritage are as large as any other ethnic group in a region known as a “melting pot” of ethnicity. Pittsburgh's parade is among the largest St. Patrick's Day Parades in the United States.
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