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Biggest Little Parade Around

The Conshohocken St. Patrick’s Day Parade may only stretch out for a mile, but it’s jam-packed with marchers, bands, dancers, and floats. The sidewalks in this small town are also jam-packed, and there seem to be more people every year. It’s become such a tradition, some families show up decked out in green with food, drink, lawn chairs and even tables!

The festivities started with a 5K race up and down Fayette Street a few times, an outing that also brought out families who were running together.

John Tobin was grand marshal.

You can see our photos of the parade and the 5K below. Continue Reading

Music, News, People, Photos

Dropkick Murphys Welcome Vets Backstage

The Dropkick Murphy’s front man Ken Casey doesn’t just give his name to his charity, The Claddagh Fund—he gives his all. When DKM blew into town last weekend for a sold-out concert, part of its 20th anniversary tour, at The Electric Factory, Casey and crew carried a banner in the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade promoting the band and the charity, which raises money to help underfunded nonprofits in Boston and Philadelphia.

One of the Boston-born Casey’s pet projects is any organization that serves military veterans, so he met with some from one of the Claddagh Fund’s grantees, Healing Ajax, backstage before the show, where they mingled with fans who made donations to the fund to get into the meet-and-greet.

Healing Ajax is a peer support program in which veterans help other veterans adjust from the battlefield to the homefront. Many of the vets are young men from the Iraq and Afghanistan fronts who may be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, or other mental health issues. Continue Reading

History, News, Photos

Duffy’s Cut Memorial 2016

A large crowd gathered Sunday at West Laurel Hill Cemetery to remember the 57 Irish immigrants from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry who came to work on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in June 1832, and who died six weeks after they arrived on a lonely stretch of track in Malvern.

Brothers Bill and Frank Watson have led the archeological research leading to the discovery of their hidden grave, and they continue to unravel the secrets of the victims—including the lone woman, Catherine Burns, whose remains were repatriated to her native County Tyrone last July. Among the speakers: Bill and Frank Watson, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, and Donegal Association President Frank McDonnell.

Given the ignominious death of the Irish immigrants and the prejudice they endured, the memorial ceremony brought to mind many of the issues currently being raised during the current presidential campaign.

“Let us not forget that when somebody says something ugly about newcomers in this country today, they’re talking about these men,” said Mayor Kenney, turning toward the large Celtic cross memorial. “They’re talking about my ancestors. They’re talking about your ancestors.”

We have close to 25 photos from the ceremony, and one video that sums it all up. Continue Reading

News, People, Photos

Pre-Parade Festivities in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney recalled the first time he ever met Paul Doris. Doris, who was born in County Tyrone and came to the US in 1974, drove Kenney and then Mayor Ed Rendell to the Philadelphia airport to meet Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, who had finally gotten a visa to come to the United States. On the way in Doris’s station wagon, said Mayor Kenney at Thursday’s pre-St. Patrick’s Day Parade ceremonies at City Hall, he and Doris gave Mayor Rendell a short course in Irish politics before he met the famed Northern Irish politician. “Not being Irish, he really didn’t know much,” said Kenney.

So when Kenney hugged Doris, this year’s parade grand marshal, it was the real deal–two old friends, in different places in their lives, meeting up again and bonding over Irish things.

Kenney used the moment to draw a parallel between the antipathy towards the immigrants of today and the Irish immigrants who came to the city in droves, fleeing starvation and oppression in their native land. “As we debate this issue, let’s remember 1844 when a group called the ‘know nothings,’ or nativists” burned down two Catholic Churches and took part in a “pitched battle” with troops at another because of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiment. That bigotry was “directed to us very vigorously and violently,” said the mayor, the first Irish mayor in this very Irish city in 20 years. Continue Reading

News, People

Wear Green, Give Green

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is hoping that the folks who’ll be wearing the green for the next couple of weeks will be willing to part with the green too—and we’re not talking soda tax here.

Through a unique partnership between the Office of the City Representative and the nonprofit Citizen Diplomacy International (CDI), the mayor is asking the Irish community—and everyone else who feels Irish on St. Patrick’s Day—to donate to a special fund for two of the region’s largest and best known nonprofits established to end hunger and homelessness. It will run through the end of March, which Kenney will be proclaiming Irish Heritage Month at city hall ceremonies on Thursday, March 9.

You’ll be hearing more about the “Wear Green, Give Green” initiative during this Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade which is being broadcast for the first time on Fox29 TV and, if you stop in to a pub for a pint along the parade route, you can read about it on your coaster, made and donated by Condrake, a Philadelphia printing firm. Continue Reading

Audio, Music, News

Podcast: Here’s How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Without the Booze

It’s almost time for the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade. Sunday, March 13, will be here before you know it. It will also be time to celebrate at the 2nd Sober St. Patrick’s Day at WHYY studios at 6th and Race, immediately following the parade.

St. Patrick’s Day—which would include parade day—can sometimes serve as an excuse for people to drink till they fall down or get sick in the street. Some of them, including a fair number of Irish-Americans no doubt, believe boozing and carousing is what day is all about.

Really? Not necessarily. OK, party—but your party can still be lots of fun without the hooch. And if you want to drink in anything, drink in some of the fun, food, dance and some of the best Irish music you’ll hear anywhere at the Sober St. Patrick’s Day party—and we hasten to add, this is all G-rated family fun. By all means, bring the kiddies.

We spoke with Katherine Ball-Weir of the Irish cultural organization Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Delaware Valley Branch, who together with Frank Daly of American Paddy’s Productions and the great local Irish band Jamison, is working hard to get this party started. Continue Reading

Music, News

Good News RUNA Lovers–They’re Playing at Home!

These days, it’s not unusual for Shannon Lambert-Ryan and her RUNA band members to get recognized in the airport. “We’ll hear, ‘hey, aren’t you from RUNA,” says Lambert-Ryan a Philadelphia native. “We’ve had a lot of fun moments like that and they’ve been steadily increasing.”

One reason is that RUNA spends a lot of time in airports and on the road. They’ve criss-crossed the country, taking their unique brand of Celtic roots music from Canada to Florida, from New England to the Pacific Northwest, picking up fans all over whom they fondly call “RUNAtics.”

“In January we left two and a half feet of snow to head to Florida where it was 80 degrees,. It was bizarre,” says the singer, who founded the band with her Dublin-born husband, Fionan de Barra. Continue Reading