Saint Patrick's Day came a day early in Mercer County.

Downtown Sharon was packed Thursday evening as hundreds of people in green took part in the city's inaugural St. Patrick's Day parade. With an even bigger turnout than expected, the parade also supported several animal charities in Mercer County.

"We're at a point where we are just getting ready to see big change happen here," said Sherris Moreira, Director od Downtown Development with the City of Sharon. "Having an event where people feel comfortable and happy and want to come down here is part of that change."

From a live DJ, bagpipers, and Irish dancers, Moreira said this is much needed for Sharon.

"We too deserve great times. It's family-friendly and it's something that's also helping the pets which is super important to us," Moreira said. 

There were over 90 participants in Thursday's parade that lasted a full hour. The event benefitted local animal charity programs in Mercer County.

"Every rescue organization is filled and the shelters are filled," said Jennifer Flynn with Animal Protection League of Western Pennsylvania. "It has just been a huge influx of animals in the shelters."

Since the pandemic, animal charities are in need of supplies now more than ever. 

"Everybody is just overwhelmed with animals," Flynn explained. "The supplies that are needed are gently used blankets, towels and kitty litter. This will be a big help."

Parade watchers donated dozens of items to nonprofits like Tails of Hope in Hermitage to Strayhaven in Greenville. Dozens of people also brought their furry friends to the festivities. 

A smile could be seen on everyone's face as the Irish holiday celebrations shook the city of Sharon.

"Businesses are coming here," Flynn said. "They have WaterFire. People are coming in to check out what's here in Sharon."

Moreira said they've been planning this event since last March. They hope to support even more animal charities outside of the county in the coming years.

The winners of the parade were announced late Thursday:

Most Distinguished: Trails End Conservancy, Hermitage
Most Creative: JCL Energy/Development, Sharon
Most Festive: The Bold Balloon, Hubbard, OH
Most Irish: Burke School of Irish Dance, Youngstown
Best Team Spirit: (Tie) PSU Shenango & Sharon Robotics (both of Sharon)
Best Pet: (tie) Lily of Banjak Heating & Cooling, Sharon; Raylan of Lydalia Gardens, Sharpsville


The evening ended with a fireworks display in Downtown Sharon that brought in hundreds.