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240th Annual Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Celebrates Irish Heritage


Fino’s Fairs and Festivalsst. patrick's day parade 2011

There was no better family-fun start to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than to have attended Philadelphia's 240th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade held last Sunday, March 13th.

Thousands of spectators of all ages gathered on the parade route between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to see the entertainment.  The main performing area was held at Fairmount Park where more than 180 groups passed by this year. Some groups included marching bands, dancers, youth assemblies and Irish Associations.

Each year the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has a theme and this year’s theme was “St. Patrick, Bless Our Religious Sisters Who Serve, Inspire, and Educate.”  Several awards are granted to those participants who best exemplify the values of the theme, but there are also awards granted to the participants who have the best dance routine, decorate their float the most creatively, and of course, best demonstrate Irish culture among many others.

Just some of the many talented award winners this year included: Sisters of Mercy for best exemplifying the spirit of the parade, Cavan Society for the most outstanding float, and Cummins School of Irish Dance for most outstanding children’s Irish dance group.    

st. patrick's day parade 2011Children and adults alike enjoyed the festive, decorated floats. Some had bright green colors, four-leafed clovers and Leprechauns painted on them.

Others had scenic murals of rolling grassy hills or religious depictions such as Saint Patrick, Mother Theresa and Pope Benedict XVI. Many floats featured Irish entertainers in traditional garb.

Such entertainment included Celtic groups such as those who performed Gaelic music and danced Irish jigs, as well as men in kilts playing bagpipes.

“It has become a tradition in our family,” said one patron.  “We all enjoy coming out to watch the floats and the children love dressing up and painting four-leaf clovers on their faces.  It’s a lot of fun.”

In addition to charity organizations, religious groups and schools, The Philadelphia Fire Department and the Philadelphia Police Department marched down Kelly Drive. With pristine vehicles and flashing lights, the audience cheered and applauded them, recognizing the incredible risks they take every day to serve and protect our city. There was even a visit from Mayor Nutter, who came out to celebrate the Irish heritage and meet with Philadelphians. During the parade, there were several vendors selling t-shirts, food and beverages.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade was an exciting and enjoyable experience for me, sure to become a tradition for anyone who attends once. Having never attended the Philadelphia parade before this year, I can say with certainty that I am anxious to attend next year. I am not sure, but I have a hunch that after the parade many entertainers and spectators went out with friends to partake in a few green beverages. Others may have been ready to enjoy a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner. One thing is for certain—it is clear from the energy levels at the close of the parade that the celebrations continued after.

About the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade:

st. patrick's day parade 2011The Irish in Philadelphia first celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in 1771. George Washington, a member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, actively encouraged American patriots to join his colonial army.  

Over the years, celebrations reflected the times with several themes emerging—religious, reverence for military service, remembrance of political struggles in Ireland, and honoring the work of St. Patrick.

Today, the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade commonly continues to honor the work of St. Patrick, expanding to celebrate Irish heritage.  This parade is the 2nd oldest in the U.S. next to New York City’s.  Each year, the St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association hosts the parade on the Sunday prior to St. Patrick’s Day unless March 17 falls on a Sunday; and then it will be celebrated on St. Patrick’s Feast Day. Throughout the years, it has honored the religious and cultural celebration of the Irish community.

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