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Don’t want to battle the crowds searching for a close in parking spot near the parade? Park in the empty lot between on Goodlette-Frank Road across from Bayfront. The $5 parking charge proceeds benefits the Naples St. Patrick’s Parade and Scholarship Society.
This year, Harp and Thistle Pipe Band proved themselves to be one of Florida’s premiere pipe bands. But Florida can’t keep a secret: After the Naples St. Patrick’s Day parade Saturday, pipe major Don Goller and his band are heading to Vegas, baby. They hope.
“We were selected as one of two bands from Florida picked to represent SUSPBA at the International Championships in Las Vegas this summer,” he said.
But in order to make it to the desert, the band needs to embark on a serious cash drive to afford the transportation to Nevada.
“So the fundraising begins,” he said.
The band has won 25 solo medals and was named champion supreme pipe band by the Southern United States Pipe Band Association.
“The band is going full-speed ahead,” Goller said.
The band will march as part of the larger-than-life annual St. Patrick’s Day parade that marches through downtown Naples starting at 11 a.m. The parade begins at St. Ann’s Catholic Church and heads north on Third Street South and then east on Fifth Avenue South. It will include more than 100 groups, including marching bands from eight local high schools.
The competition will be a big test for the Naples pipers because they’ll compete with pipe bands from all over the world. Still competition is only one part of Harp and Thistle’s mission.
“The band is both a competition and performance band,” Goller said. “And we are looking forward to playing for our neighbors, family and friends in Naples St. Patrick’s Parade.”
Goller, a retired homicide detective from Long Island, has been playing the pipes for 40 years and teaching them for three decades. He was pipe major of the Police Emerald Society Pipe Band and the Celtic Cross Competition Pipe Band, both in New York, before retiring to Naples and starting Harp and Thistle seven years ago.
A traditional Celtic pipe band, the pipers of Harp and Thistle wear the Irish national tartan and the Scottish thistle design in the sporran.
A true Celtic pipe band, members are of Irish, Scottish and Welsh heritage. The band ranges in age from 10 to 70 and counts seven champion supreme pipers and drummers in its ranks.
They give bagpipe lessons at the First Presbyterian Church in Bonita Springs on Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m, both to spread the joys of the pipes and to keep their skills sharp.
“We have a saying in the band,” Goller says. “Excellence is obtained when each of us pushes ourselves to the maximum. To do less allows mediocrity to take its place.”
More than the parade
The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade isn’t the only event celebrating the luck o’ the Irish. There are plenty of other area events around St. Patrick’s Day:
* 8 a.m. mass at St. Ann Catholic Church and 9:30 a.m. flag raising at Crayton Cove, Naples.
* Naples St. Patrick’s Day Parade, 11 a.m. Saturday, St. Ann’s Church, 542 Eighth Ave. S., Naples, down Third Street South to Fifth Avenue South, down Eight Street South and ending at Crayton Cove.
* St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Rookery Bay, $1 off admission for adults and youth, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, 300 Tower Road, Naples. Regular admission is $5, adults; $3, children 6-12.
* All-day Irish extravaganza, Irish favorites and Irish and American musicians, 9 a.m. (for those who want to stake out a good parade seat) to midnight, Wednesday, McCabe’s Irish Pub, 699 Fifth Ave. S., Naples. (888) 403-8778
* St. Patrick’s Show, featuring Gerry Forde and Jimmy Joyce, noon Wednesday, Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track, 10601 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs. 992-2411 or 405-1709
* Irish beer tasting, 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Whole Foods Market, 9101 Strada Place, Naples. 552-5100
* Shamrocks and shenanigans, St. Patrick’s Day tent party with food, beverages and entertainment, 4 p.m.-midnight, Wednesday, Cru, Bell Tower Shops, 13499 S. Cleveland Ave. (U.S. 41), Fort Myers. $15, cover charge. (239) 466-3663