SAVANNAH, Ga. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Organizers of Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade said they’ve banned a firefighters’ group that includes the FDNY from participating in this year’s parade.
The group, Our Nation’s Firefighters, typically has firefighters from New York City, Ireland and other cities marching in Savannah’s parade.
But Parade Committee General Chairman Brendan Sheehan said the group was denied permission to march because of past alcohol-related issues, including drinking before the parade and drinking while marching in the parade.
James Grismer, who heads Savannah Friends of Firefighters that organizes Our Nation’s Firefighters, told 1010 WINS he was caught off guard by the decision.
“It really hurts because if they had a problem with us, they could have told us on March 18, 2012,” he said. “But instead they waited 11 and a half months to deny our application.”
Grismer, a Long Island native who was a volunteer firefighter in New York City for 45 years, said he felt like other groups drink before marching and that he wasn’t aware of any members of his unit drinking while in the parade line recently.
“We had a problem in 2007. Somebody was misbehaving involving drinking and as a result, our unit wasn’t allowed in the 2008 parade,” he said. “So we’re pretty sensitive and somewhat paranoid about folks drinking in our ranks and we self-police it.”
But Sheehan said Grismer’s group had been warned in the past.
“We have gone over several times with Mr. Grismer about the alcohol issues in the parade,” Sheehan told CBS affiliate WTOC in Savannah. “He said he has talked to our adjutant in the past and said ‘I am trying to control them, but I’ve got guys from all over the country, I don’t know all the personalities, I’m trying to do the best I can.'”
Grismer said the firefighters are hurt over the committee’s decision.
“This is an insult, disrespect — they’re being dissed and they don’t like it,” he said. “They’re up in arms.”
He told 1010 WINS that the parade committee said it would consider issuing another parade unit, but only for New York City firefighters.
“So we would go in as FDNY rather than Our Nation’s Firefighters,” he said.
According to the group’s website, more than 400 firefighters from New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Ireland were expected to take part in this year’s parade.
Grismer, whose own sons are FDNY firefighters, said New York’s Bravest are always a big hit at the parade.
“Residents of Savannah love the New York City firefighters,” he said. “It’s a parade where young women run out into the ranks, kiss the men and then run back to the sidewalk and put on fresh lipstick and do it again, so by the end of the parade, firefighters are covered with kiss marks — it’s tradition.”
Savannah is known as having one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country with thousands of spectators and marchers from all over the world taking part.
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