Simply fun, tradition

The Baltimore Sun

Once a year, on the day of Baltimore's St. Patrick's Day parade, Ann Mooney doesn't want to be known as Ann Mooney. She is Ann Donohoe Mooney - adding her maiden name as a declaration of her Irish heritage on her father's side.

Her loyalty to yesterday's parade was declaration enough. Every year, Mooney comes to the same spot on Charles Street between Centre and Hamilton streets with her friend, Kitt Rogers, and enough children to fill a classroom.

Mooney remembers when it was just her and her husband (and their puppy, Guinness) watching the Irish dancers, mummers, veterans and marching bands walk through downtown.

Next, between Rogers and Mooney, came a combined seven years of pregnancy, and thus, alcohol-free St. Patrick's Day parades. But yesterday, the two moms sipped beer and stood behind 20 children - not all of them theirs - who sat in a row on the curb, wearing large green top hats made of felt.

"We're making up for lost time," Rogers said of their choice of beverage.

Rogers, of Sparks, said that the two families have been collecting green gear for decades and that her children argue every year over which hat they get to wear.

"We've got first grade to 10th grade," said Mooney, also of Sparks. "We've got second cousins, first cousins, neighbors. ... Some of the kids had sporting events today, but this usurps everything else in importance. Their coaches just have to understand."

Baltimore seems to take this parade quite seriously. There's no gimmicks, such as in Chicago, where they dye the river green. The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish-Catholic social group, usually holds a pre-parade Mass but had to cancel because they couldn't find a priest to officiate on Palm Sunday.

"Baltimore keeps it nice and special," said Kelly L. Parks, state president of the group. "It gives the Irish a good reputation and shows that we're not always drinking, although some of us do," she joked.

The event had all of the hallmarks of a St. Patrick's Day parade in Baltimore: bitter winds, mostly cloudy skies, standing-room-only seating at the Midtown Yacht Club, dogs with their fur dyed green, lots of kilts and bagpipes, and not one audible boo for Gov. Martin O'Malley - not in this crowd, at least.

Brian Fitzmaurice, 46, said the governor hosted a "big shindig" Saturday night to celebrate, and sang "three or four songs" and played the guitar.

Fitzmaurice, president of the Annapolis chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and a deputy parade marshal, rented a black top hat and tuxedo for the parade and brought along a shillelagh, a walking stick made of blackthorn.

At first, Fitzmaurice gave his name as Brian Fitzmaurice, but he later added "Patrick," his middle name, as further proof of his Irish ancestry.

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