Kicking up your Irish: St. Patrick's week kicks off with a grand parade and more

E.B. Furgurson III

Flaunting one’s Irish, whether by blood or celebratory adoption, gets into full swing in Annapolis this weekend.

Saturday kicks it in with the annual Green Beer Races in Eastport, and the evening’s sold out Hooley at the Loew’s Hotel. Those events take care of those who celebrate in liquid form or paid the price for the indoor evening event.

But, Sunday it’s an Irish celebration for the whole family: The Sixth Annual Annapolis St. Patrick’s Parade.

“We have people coming in from Tennessee, Florida, up and down the east coast, even a Norwegian Special Forces unit,” parade founder John O’Leary said.

“The Annapolis St. Patrick’s Parade is the biggest parade of the year and my favorite parade to watch,” said Mayor Gavin Buckley. “The luck of the Irish hopefully will bring us sunny skies to help warm us up.”

Buckley said the city is ready to welcome thousands of visitors for the event.

“As Mayor, I am lucky enough to be leading the parade. I’ll be the one in green,” the mayor quipped.

There will be floats and politicians, firefighters and bagpipers, bands and businesses — both Irish and non — in the column; bands from afar like the New York Police Department Ceremonial Marching Band and the Richmond Pipes; and Caledonians, Hibernians, Kellys, McCarthys, the O’Hare, and the O’Grady Quinlan Irish Academy dance troupes, plus the Irish Wolfhound Club. And, even that Norwegian unit.

It’s likely most will be wearin’ the green.

O’Leary promises a surprise will be unfurled when the parade hits the end of the route at City Dock.

The route will be lined with loads of green festooned folk, many in natty tweeds and Aran knits, rosy cheeked children and loads of dogs.

There will also be a good load of more garish Irish getups in sight.

Governor Larry Hogan and Mayor Buckley will lead the parade, right behind the U.S. Naval Academy Band, and U.S. Marine Color Guard.

The event, which has grown by leaps and jigs since its inception, steps off at 1 p.m. It will move from the staging area in and around Amos Garrett Boulevard onto West Street, east to Church Circle and down Main Street to City Dock.

The parade has ballooned to 104 units for this year’s green stroll.

That is actually less units than last year. “We had to cut it back. People were saying, ‘Boy, this is kinda long,’ so we had to put the brakes on,” O’Leary said.

Last year’s event had 117 units. “The first year we had 46,” O’Leary said.

He said he thought of organizing a parade after having attended the St. Patrick’s celebrations in Chicago, New York, and Savannah, Georgia — yes Savannah.

“I thought downtown businesses could use a boost on an otherwise slow winter weekend,” O’Leary said. “And, it is a great opportunity to support Irish heritage.”

The event has in the past benefited two or three charities. This year Warrior Events will be the sole beneficiary.

The organization, founded by O’Leary in 2009, gets wounded warriors and their families out and about throughout the year. They get to the Governor’s Box for Orioles games, go sailing, attend concerts and the like. Last year there was even a cruise for Gold Star Mothers, those who have lost a child in war.

This year’s Grand Marshal honoree is George Hogan, a Cape St. Claire resident and long-time member of the Ancient Order of Hibernian. Hogan is also active in St. Mary’s Catholic Church and its charitable works via the St. Vincent DePaul Society.

Hogans, both the Governor and the Grand Marshal, should lead all in a great afternoon of craic (For the uninitiated, “craig” or "crack" is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.).

Craic, you say? Translated loosely, it’s fun. More specifically it’s good times and lively conversation like that found in any pub with a pint and friends.

There will be craic aplenty and a bit of shenanigans at two other events kicking off the St. Patrick’s season this weekend — the sold-out Hooley, a great party at the Loew’s Annapolis Hotel which is also a part of the Warrior Events program. Patrons plopped down $140 per ticket for that one featuring the band Dublin 5, free vittles and an open bar.

The bar will be open at the Eastport Democratic Club for the annual Green Beer Races on Saturday.

Kicking off at the traditional “Crack of Noon,” it too is a family affair “Where everyone can be Irish” the event motto declares.

Dublin 5 will take the stage at high noon for a 2 ½ hour set. Then, the kids’ green “beer” races set off at 2:45 p.m.

Those in a heaving mood can partake in the keg toss, always a fun time as would-be shot-putters take their turn.

Like the parade the following day, there will be pooches and puppies aplenty. It’s a tradition. So much so a “Best Dressed Pooch” prize is awarded at 3:15 p.m. just before the adult green beer races, both relays and individual events, get underway at 3:30 p.m.

Slainte.(To your good health)

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