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St. Patrick’s Day Parade


Luck of the Irish Shines Down on Mount Holly

This young lady evidently received the shamrock memo.

This young lady evidently received the shamrock memo.

Hard to believe it was the same place. In Mount Holly on Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day parade-goers were happily waltzing up and down High Street in shorts and T-shirts—with the salt and cinders from the preceding Monday’s big snowstorm still fresh on the road.

Talk about the luck of the Irish.

Here and there, patches up snow persisted in some of the shadier places, but otherwise it was officially spring in Mount Holly. It might have been the best day they’ve ever had—a perfect day for taking in the pipers, Irish dancers and paddy rock bands on floats as they made their way down through the center of town.

It might also have been the best crowd we’ve seen in the five years of the parade, too, and they were decked out in their finest St. Patrick’s Day regalia—but you can see for yourself. We took lots of pictures.


Looking For the Next Conshy Grand Marshal

The Saint Patrick’s Parade Committee of Montgomery County is accepting letters of nominations for Grand Marshal of the
2009 Saint Patricks’ Parade in Conshohocken, to be held on March 14.

This will be the fourth year for the parade in Conshohocken, and it has grown each year. The parade is always the Saturday before Saint Patrick’s Day.

To be nominated for Grand Marshal you must be a resident of Montgomery County; be of Irish by birth or descent; and have contributed to the Irish community or the community at large.

All letters must be sent to Hibernian Hall, 342 Jefferson St., Swedesburg, PA 19405, in care of the Saint Patrick’s Parade Committee.

Deadline for letters will be December 12. The announcement will be made on December 20.


Bring a Food Donation to the Conshy Parade

“Sharin’ the Green” is the theme of this years Saint Patrick’s Parade in Conshohocken. The parade will kick off at 2 p.m. on March 15.

The Saint Patrick’s Parade Committee of Montgomery County will be collecting food to feed the hungry. The committee asks that participants and onlookers bring a canned or dry good to the parade. These items will be collected, and there will also be drop-off points along the parade route.

Two organizations, the Swedesburg Fire Co. and the Cummings School of Irish Dance, have committed to bringing food. The Swedesburg Fire Co. has a barrel in the Social Room for its members and they also contacted Sacred Heart Church parishioners to help with the food drive.

Jim Gallagher, chairman of the parade committee and a member of the AOH Notre Dame Division, said the food drive is based from the Hibernian Food Project, the AOH project to help the hungry with food collections or working in kitchens making meals for the needy.

The Patricians Society and the Colonial Neighborhood Council will receive the donations collected in the parade. Both organizations help people in Norristown, Conshohocken, Whitemarsh, Plymouth and surrounding areas.

News, People

Grand Marshal Chosen for Mt. Holly Parade

By Bill Donahue

John “Jack” McKee, a resident of the Port Richmond Section of Philadelphia, has been chosen as the grand marshal of the 2008 Mt. Holly St Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade, in its fourth year, is quickly becoming one of the premier Irish events in the Delaware Valley. Jack is excited to be leading the parade down High Street this year as the parade’s grand marshal.

Jack was born and raised in Philadelphia and he grew up in a very supportive Irish household. Jack has always been involved in Irish organizations for as long as he can recall. In fact, I truly believe the first words he spoke were the lyrics to “Boys of the Old Brigade.” Jack has been a very influential and driving figure within the tri-state Irish community for years.

Jack is following in the footstep of some great individuals who have preceded him as grand marshal, including “Irish” Billy Briggs and Ed Kelly, one of the founders of the Philadelphia Saint Patrick’s Observance Association.

Jack is a graduate of North Catholic and is married to his lovely wife Carina and has two sons, Brendan and Erik, along with two daughters, Victoria and Nicole. Jack is a longtime employee of the Philadelphia Gas Works.

He was the vice president of the Irish American String Band in 2007 and led the string band up the street in the 2008 Mummers parade. Jack has also been very influential in the Irish music scene. Jack has been the lead singer of two local Irish bands, Dicey Riley and his current band The Shantys. His amazing ability to retain Irish song lyrics makes for a great fit as a front man. Jack has a great love of Irish music and he enjoys keeping the tradition and history alive. In fact, Jack sees this as his duty.

He also heavily supports AOH endeavors and Project Children. Jack, along with The Shantys, has played numerous charity gigs all over the tri-state area for many noble causes. Jack donates much of his time to assist with these great causes. If someone weere to ask what was Jack’s driving force it would be to help out others in need.

Whether it is playing at a benefit or simply volunteering at the door, he can always be found helping out in one way or another. He is also an active member of AOH div. 61 and was highly involved in the Irish Relief Association founded by his late brother Dennis McKee.

Jack is the guy that everyone seems to know or wants to know, he is the life of the party. His music and energy can fill up the room with laughter and happiness. He is truly one of the leading voices in Irish music in Philadelphia today.

Bill Donahue is a member of the Philadelphia Irish Band The Shantys, as well as a member of AOH Division 61.


Come Have a Ball!

Get ready for the Conshohocken St. Patrick’s Day Parade and toast the new grand marshal at the same time.

The Grand Marshal’s Ball will be held March 8 at the Jeffersonville Banquet Hall in East Norriton.

The Grand Marshal for the 2008 parade will be Pete Hand, a resident of Swedesburg, Upper Merion Township. Ed Halligan, Grand Marshal of the 2007 parade, will turn over the reins to Pete that night, with the 2008 Grand Marshal Sash and walking cane that is passed on to the next Grand Marshal each year

The parade will be on March 15 starting, at 2 p.m at 11th and Fayette Streets. The theme of the parade is “Sharin’ of the Green.”

Tickets for the Grand Marshal’s Ball are $25 each. The bash starts at 6 p.m. and continues until 10. The ticket price includes dinner, beer, wine and soda. There will be a cash bar for mixed drinks.

Entertainment will be provided by Irish Thunder Pipes & Drums, Irish dancers from the Coyle School of Irish Dance, and D.J. Jim Mulholland, who will provide plenty of dance music all night long.

For tickets and more information please call (610) 666-1989. Deadline to purchase tickets will be February 25.


Wilmington’s Irish Get Ready to Celebrate

Editor’s note: The 2007 parade was canceled due to inclement weather.

The first Wilmington St. Patrick’s Day parade, back in 1975, was little more than a couple of trucks, a few guys on horseback and a fella by the name of Pat Kelly on a green bike. The parade started at 12th and Market streets, up Delaware Avenue, and ended at Kelly’s Logan House.

“It was a catch-as-catch-can parade,” admits Eileen Claffey Sweeney, co-chair of the parade. “The following year we got a little more serious and we marched down King Street. We end at St. Patrick Catholic Church. It’s been there ever since.”

This St. Patrick’s Day will mark the 32th anniversary of the Wilmington parade—we’ll explain the imprecise math in a moment—sponsored by the Irish Culture Club of Delaware. With lots of bands, floats, and prancing herds of dancing children, the parade has come a long, long way from its humble origins. Anywhere from 4,000 to 7,000 folks line the street.

Eileen has seen most of it; she’s been on the committee for 30 years. In fact, at least four other members have been around for at least that long, including co-chair Patrick J. Kelly (the green bike-riding guy in the first parade and St. Patrick in most of the parades since); Annamay Claffey, the parade’s mistress of ceremonies; Len Bafundo and Mark Wirt (both he and Len are parade coordinators, responsible for parade marshals); and Ann Marie Corrigan Rizzo (treasurer of the parade committee and assistant to the emcee).

Even though they’ve not been around for quite that long, everyone else on the parade committee is a long-timer. Dignitary chair Alice Seaberg has been on the committee for close to 28 years. (Alice’s husband Harry came on board recently.) Jim Harkin has been around for 20 years; Carol Duffy and Donna Kelly, for 10.

“Once you do it, you’re signed up for life,” say Eileen. “That’s the way it is for a lot of groups, but the Irish especially.”

The parade actually had got its start on the sands of Rehoboth, she says. “It was in the summer of ‘75,” she says. “There were four guys from Wilmington (Pat Kelly among them) who got together on the beach at Rehoboth every summer. One day, one of them asked, hey, why don’t we do something for St. Patrick’s Day? And one of them said, hey, let’s have a parade. So they went in to the city to apply for a permit. They learned that they needed an organization to get a permit, so the Irish Culture Club was born in March of ‘76.”

The weather in March is unpredictable. Last year, for example, it was unseasonably warm. Virtually no one who lives in the Delaware Valley will forget the weekend of March 12-13, 1993. That was the weekend of the so-called “storm of the century.”

“It was a doozy,” recalls Eileen. “Earlier in the week, the forecast was predicting snow. So we had a meeting on the Wednesday before the parade, and we decided to cancel. I was in charge of calling the radio stations.”

And a good thing they decided not to march. “It ended up we had two feet of snow,” Eileen says.

For at least one member of the committee, though, this will be the 32st parade. Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night could keep Patrick J. Kelly from his appointed rounds.

Or, put another way, as Eileen Sweeney explains: “Patrick Kelly is nuts.” Snow or not, Kelly decided to go downtown to 9th and King with his brother Joe in his van. “Patrick was in full St. Patrick regalia,” says Eileen. “He marched from 9th Street up to 11th and King. Our courthouse is right there. A Channel 6 reporter saw him coming down and she ran out and interviewed him.”

That wasn’t enough for Patrick, Eileen recalls. “He told the reporter, ‘If you wait another 10 minutes, there’s gonna be a leprechaun coming down the street.’ With that, Pat ran back to the van, changed into a leprechaun costume, then marched down.”

Other members were impressed—and a little put out. They told Kelly that they would have joined him, nuts or not, if they’d known. “We told him, ‘Pat, we will never forgive you.’ So Patrick has made our parade continuously.”

So if you ever wonder what kind of people would stick with something like a St. Patrick’s Day parade for three decades … well, now you know.

The parade kicks off at noon on Saturday, March 17. The parade starts at Fourth and King Streets, and continues on King to St. Patrick’s Church at 15th Street. An ecumenical service for world peace will follow at St. Patrick’s Church.


They Love a Parade in Levittown

From Cobalt Ridge to Vermillion Hills, the folks of Levittown lined New Falls Road on Saturday, March 10, for the 19th annual Levittown St. Patrick’s Day parade. There were dancers, Shriners, beauty queens, pipers, politicians, clowns, dogs, horses, and St. Patrick on a cherry picker. The folks in Lower Bucks County got a treat that the Philly parade fans didn’t: They got to see the Fralinger String Band in full regalia. In Philly, they marched naked (for a string band, that means without their feathered costumes).

For a look at all the frivolity, check out our many photos.


A Day for the Children of Immigrants

The first Irishman I ran into at the Mount Holly St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday was wearing a kilt, brandishing a blackthorn stick and waving the tricolor as he stood along High Street, watching the Col. D.B. Kelly Pipes and Drums march past.

His name was Steve Soviccki. He’s Irish on his mother’s side, he explained. In fact, he produced a photograph of his final resting place, a plot in County Clare. So I wished him a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and moved along.

The fact that not everyone who turns out for the Mount Holly Parade is Irish is actually one of the coolest things about it. The Burlington County Seat is a real melting pot. About 22 percent of the township is African American, according to 2000 Census figures. Just 13 percent of the people who live in Mount Holly claim Irish ancestry. And the rest are all over the landscape, demographically speaking, with about 15 percent German, 10 percent Italian, and six percent Puerto Rican in ancestry.

And yet, they’re all out there on this day devoted to a particular group of immigrants—but anyone whose grandparents came from Russia or Albania, or who themselves only recently arrived from India or Haiti, can identify with the experience.

Like St. Patrick’s Day Parades in small towns all over America, this one was peopled by bagpipers, dancers, traditional musicians, and people dressed up like leprechauns. It wasn’t long by Philadelphia standards, but to the folks of Mount Holly who stood out on a cloudy, windy and chilly day in March, it was plenty long enough, and a point of pride.