Beer in the streets, elaborate and whimsical costumes, massive floats, tossed beads and a general air of joyous pandemonium is very much a New Orleans-sounding tradition.  But temperatures in the low forties and overcast skies? 

That’s pure Detroit.

Despite the bracing weather, the crowds that turned up to line Michigan Avenue on Sunday, March 16th, 2008 were nothing short of phenomenal.  Sponsored by the United Irish Societies throughout the city, the 50th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade wound for a dozen blocks throughout Corktown, a southwest enclave whose name came from County Cork in Ireland and served as home to many Irish immigrants when they first arrived on our shores. 

Led by Grand Marshal Patrick O’Hara, the parade was a heartfelt and raucous nod to the imprint that the Irish have left on Detroit and its environs.  O’Hara serves as the Treasurer of St. Patrick Senior Center in Detroit. Pat has also volunteered his time and talent to the Detroit Cristo Rey High School, the new Catholic high school to open this fall at the site of the former Holy Redeemer High School in southwest Detroit. He served on the school’s Planning Committee and is a member of the Finance Committee.  Additionally, he recently completed a two-year term as the Supreme Sir Knight (National President) of the Knights of Equity, a National Catholic Irish Fraternal Society and has also served as the Worthy Sir Knight of Court 6 in Detroit for five years. Pat has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Irish Cultural Forum since 1981 and is a long-time member of the Gaelic League.

Jam-packed with marching bands, novelty groups, massive floats and pipe bands, the parade is also closely associated with both Detroit’s police and fire departments.  The fact that it was the fiftieth anniversary of the parade, and certainly the best attended ever by the looks of things, only added to the sense of festiveness and gaiety.  Dearborn Gaels dressed smartly in green, the Andy Dillon clan, Most Holy Trinity school, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick from Warren were only a few of the local organizations who marched; there was a noted presence of all the local Irish pubs, Full Kilt, The Old Shillelagh and Dunleavy’s, to name a handful.  All along the parade route, everybody wanted to be Irish, of course, and ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish’ buttons could be found on young and old.  Even the famous statue of the Polish General Thaddeus Kosciuszko on Michigan Avenue wound up bedecked in an Irish flag.

The weather, typically Celtic, was hardly an obstacle to Irish-boosting Detroiters, and actually, added a further air of ‘authentic Ireland’ to the day.