GIRARDVILLE - The 11th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade will kick off at noon Saturday in Girardville, with this year's theme dedicated to the history and legacy of the schools in the Girardville area and beyond.

Tne parade is sponsored by the Jack Kehoe Division No. 1 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of Girardville.

The commemorative booklet and parade program features the history of schools in Girardville and northern Schuylkill County. The parade will also continue to salute the Irish heritage of Girardville and the rest of the hard-coal region.

Parade manager Stephen Barrett spoke to Girardville Borough Council at last week's meeting, explaining that security is being addressed for the safety of residents, parade participants and spectators.

"We've had a bad reputation with a few of our entries during such a large event," said Barrett. "This year we're going to do a better job. I've met with the mayor and council, and I'll meet with the police to do a better job with crowd control. We'll have a better security presence on the street. Since I've taken this parade over as parade manager, my number one priority is to make sure the town is safe and secure."

The parade lineup was completed on Tuesday evening at a meeting in the Hibernian House in Girardville. The parade route will be marked and the borough will be cleaning the streets along the route.

The parade begins on East Main Street, moves west to Julia Street, where it goes south to Ogden Street, then moves east along Ogden to Second Street. After moving a short distance south on Second Street, it turns onto A Street and moves east to the end. The media stand will be at St. Joseph Church and the judges will be at the former A Street School.

Barrett took on the new position of parade manager this year after the retirement of John "Mouche" McNelis, who was parade chairman during the parade's first 10 years. The parade chairman is Girardville AOH President Joseph Wayne.

In a media release, Barrett explained the parade's theme.

"The parade committee hopes the theme of the parade will help bring back some of the missing high school bands that have been absent the past few years," said Barrett. "The superintendents of the local high schools will be the grand marshals of this year's parade. High school bands, school floats with their championship winning sports teams, and marching units of alumni and students groups will participate in the parade. Past alumni and sport team booster clubs were also invited to participate."

A new parade T-shirt and "parade sponsor pin" featuring a "salute to our local education system" will be for sale throughout town on parade day. The parade committee hopes those at the parade will purchase the pin to help defray the increasing cost of bag pipe bands. More information about the special events, the official "Parade Gear" and how you can support the parade can be found on the parade's website www.girardvilleirishparade.com.

"The website is new this year to assist with the parade registration and to help provide information to the public about the parade," said Barrett.

Barrett said in the press release that the parade is one of the largest in Pennsylvania and will include pipe and drum bands from throughout Pennsylvania and a number of floats and marching units. There are five large divisions.

The parade will be preceded by Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 211 W. Main St. Food and refreshments can be found at several locations around town. An award ceremony will take place after the parade at the Hibernian House, where Irish entertainment and adult beverages can be found throughout the day.

Entries can register up until 11:30 a.m. the morning of the parade at the Girardville Borough Hall, Fourth and B streets. Groups and individuals interested in participating who have not preregistered can do so on parade day.

Anyone with questions on registration or the parade may call Barrett at 570-872-3358. Barrett noted parking will be at a premium and the borough will be closed to traffic after 10 a.m.

For additional information, go to www.girardvilleirishparade.com or go to the parade's Facebook page at "Annual AOH Girardville St. Patrick's Day Parade."