While floats, pipe & drum bands, Shamrocks and all-things green characterize the St. Patrick's Parade in Detroit, the event is actually held in celebration of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who is credited with bringing Christianity to the Emerald Isles.
What is St. Patrick's Day?
St. Patrick's Day is March 17th and commemorates the day St. Patrick died. While the folk of Ireland observe the date in a religious manner, the United States celebrates it with parties and parades. According to History1800s.about.com, the first St. Patrick's Parade in the U.S. took place in Boston in 1737. New York City also did its fair share of celebrating the date starting in the 1760s with various events and parties.
Detroit's St. Patrick's Parade takes place in the city's Corktown neighborhood, where Irish immigrants settled in the mid-1800s. The neighborhood was actually named after a county in Ireland and eventually became home to the Gaelic league of Detroit, making it the logical location for the Irish celebration.
Tradition / History
The Detroit parade is traditionally held on the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day and typically attracts a pretty big crowd. In fact, the crowd was estimated at 30,000 one year. As might be expected, the celebration often continues after the parade at various bars, clubs and saloons in and around the Corktown neighborhood.
The St. Patrick's Parade is in its 56th year in 2014 and, according to Ireland and the Americas: culture, politics, and history (volume 2), is Michigan's longest running ethnic parade. It starts at noon on Sunday, March 16th near Irish Plaza at Sixth Street and Michigan Avenue. The parade route runs west on Michigan Avenue to 14th Street. It is expected to last for approximately two hours.
The parade is sponsored by the United Irish Societies. In addition to marching and pipe & drum bands, color guard units, clowns and novelty groups, the parade includes floats sponsored by various organizations, churches and bars. While participants in years past have thrown out candy to the crowd, participants are specifically prohibited from doing so in 2014.
The St. Patrick's celebration doesn't begin and end with the parade. There are several other events leading up to and taking place on parade day:
- March 14th: Painting of the Shamrocks. If interested in painting Shamrocks along the parade route, you can meet at the Gaelic League at 11 AM and then walk to Irish Plaza.
- March 16th:
- The Cork Town Race is a 5K run/walk that will be held along the parade route starting at 10 AM. The route runs from Michigan Central Station (located at the intersection of Michigan and Vernor Avenues) to Woodward Avenue and back. The event also includes a new Dublin Dash Mile at 9:40 AM and Kids Quarter Mile at 9:30 AM.
- The Gaelic League / Irish American Club is hosing several events in celebration. On parade day, the Gaelic League will open at 7 AM and provide fun, food and entertainment. On St. Patrick's Day itself, the Gaelic League will do it all over again starting at 10 AM.
- Corktown Tavern is hosting a St. Patrick's Day Parade Party Extravaganza with The Kreelers.
- Slows BBQ will be open on parade day from 9 AM to 6 PM with a limited menu, full bar and Irish music.
- Other bars and pubs in the area include Oblivion's Corktown Cafe, Nemo's, St. Cece's Pub, and Sugar House.
Irish Societies in Detroit
Information about everything Irish in Detroit -- festivals, organizations, dances, books, history, stores -- is available through either The Gaelic League or DetroitIrish.org of greater Detroit and Michigan.