You could become the ‘Mayor of Southie’ for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Here’s how
It’s been on hiatus for at least a decade.
But one South Boston tradition is making a return this year, months ahead of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, the organization in charge of the March celebration that winds through the neighborhood streets, announced it’s bringing back the “Mayor of Southie” contest, a fund-raising competition that crowns a winner — sash and all.
“We really thought it would be a great idea if we brought that back,” said Dave Falvey, commander of the council. “I think it’s just a really fun thing to have as part of the parade. We’re really excited about it, and I’m hoping it will be a big hit.”
The contest officially kicks off Jan. 1, Falvey said, and applications to enter the competition are already online.
In order to be eligible for the role of “Mayor of Southie,” applicants must currently live in the neighborhood, according to contest rules.
Once they’ve entered, contestants will host “campaign” events around the neighborhood and raise as much money as possible. All money raised by the mayoral hopefuls will go to the council to help pay for the parade.
Candidates will have until Feb. 1 to raise $1,000. If they fall short of that goal, they will be eliminated from the race. Those who surpass the fund-raising goal by the deadline will advance to the next round.
The person who raises the most money by the end of the competition, which wraps up on March 11, six days before the parade, will secure the title.
“You can raise money any way you want,” the rules state. “Host parties, functions, raffles, through fund-raising websites. Do whatever is original and exciting, however, do it legally.”
The deadline to apply is Dec. 31. At least one person has already signed up, Falvey said.
Besides being dubbed “mayor,” the winner will get to march in the parade with at least five friends or family members, get two free tickets to — and recognition at — the Evacuation Day Banquet, and be showered in a bit of “media attention.”
“We’re definitely committed to making sure they get their due,” Falvey said.
The idea to bring back the contest came up during council discussions and was bolstered by Maureen Dahill, who runs the South Boston neighborhood website “Caught in Southie,” Falvey said.
“She encouraged us to bring it back, and she encouraged me to do it,” he said. “She helped guide us in terms of how it should look, and that was a big factor in us deciding to do that.”
The contest dates back to at least 1996, according to Globe archives. It was then that the Boston Claddagh Society started raising funds for the parade “in an unusual way” — by hosting a mock election for the unofficial role of mayor.
The plan wasn’t always widely accepted, however.
“For all the fervor with which candidates pursue the office in South Boston, some outside the neighborhood are not so hot on the idea because of the origins of the election,” according to a 2004 Globe story. “The election was hatched because funding for the St. Patrick’s Day parade dwindled after a controversy and court battle over the right of gays and lesbians to participate” in 1995.
Still, many signed up in the years following the inaugural event, with contestants taking to the streets with fierce determination to win the coveted moniker. By 2004, it had raised more than $200,000 total.
Falvey said he’s not sure when, exactly, the contest dropped off, but he’s excited to introduce it to a new generation of parade-goers and residents.
While the roots of the contest may have been contentious, the council is restarting the tradition for completely different reasons, he said.
The organization is under new leadership — Falvey was tapped after the 2017 parade — and Bryan Bishop, the founder and chief executive of OUTVETS, an LGBTQ veterans group, was selected as director of parade operations in July.
“In some respects, things have really come full circle,” Falvey said.
He sees the move to bring back the “Mayor of Southie” as a way to breathe new life into the parade, while generating revenue and connecting the community in a positive way.
“I think the goal is to kind of do more than just the parade,” Falvey
said. “If this ends up being wildly successful, and we make way more than the parade requires, then that will help us with next year’s parade and help us with any number of civic engagements.”