When the 30th annual St. Patrick's Day parade begins its winding path through downtown Augusta on Saturday, it will be because Jason Scherer gave the green light.
For the second year, the Grovetown resident has served as parade chairman, organizing the parade presented by the Irish American Heritage Society of Augusta. Scherer's father, John, was parade chairman for about eight years in the 1980s. In fact, Scherer was on the front page of The Augusta Chronicle at nearly 3 years old the day after the first parade in March 1978.
The parade has always been a part of the family's St. Patrick's Day tradition. "Last year was my first year (as chairman) ... I almost teared up. It was so emotional. It was something I worked so hard to do and that is so important to my family and so important to a lot of people."
Scherer said he remembers as a boy the excitement of starting the parade then hearing the revving engines and whooping sirens of the police motorcycles, which led off the parade.
As chairman of the parade, Scherer is following a family tradition. He said he was destined to organize the parade founded on St. Patrick's Day traditions of Irish-Americans such as his grandmother, Marian A. Scherer, who immigrated to the United States from County Cork, Ireland.
"My grandmother, when she passed away in 1977, she always wanted to have a good parade," Scherer said. Savannah had a large party-filled St. Patrick's Day celebration and parade, and his grandmother "wanted more of a family-type parade and more of a low-key celebration."
The parade starts near the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. Scherer said each St. Patrick's Day his grandmother would meet her friends and family at the church for Mass and then proceed to the Town Tavern.
"That's how they would celebrate St. Patrick's Day. That's why with the parade, we gather right there around Trinity," Scherer said. The heritage society gives the annual Marian A. Scherer Irish Lady of the Year award, named for his grandmother. "That's kind of where it got all started."
Scherer said he joined the parade committee six or seven years ago knowing he wanted to lead the parade one day.
The parade is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. at Sixth and Telfair streets and proceed to 11th and Broad streets. The early start time allows people to enjoy more of the downtown festivities, Scherer said.
Scherer said this year's parade, which is Augusta's longest-running, will include plenty of Shriners from around the state, Boy and Girl Scouts, civic clubs, marching bands and family floats.
"That is always fun to see, what they (the families) come up with," Scherer said. "It is a family thing, which is what we want our parade to be."
Scherer said his family's St. Patrick's Day tradition usually includes attending Mass and a large family breakfast of green eggs and grits. Scherer said he warned his wife, Lisa, before they were married that his family attends a lot of football games and plans the parade.
"It is a very parade-centered deal," Scherer said. "I am probably one of a handful of people who have been to every single parade."
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