Throw your Mardi Gras beads in the back of the closet, find something smashing in green to wear and get the stew pot ready. St. Patrick’s Day is Sunday.
There are more parades than ever this year spread over two weekends, including one in Metairie that segues from celebrating the Irish culture into celebrating our culture from Italy.
New Orleans, with an Irish heritage dating back to the 1840s and 1850s, probably tops all American cities in celebrating this festive Emerald Isle holiday.
Parades include men and women in walking groups from clubs in the city dressed in bright green and white costumes passing out flowers, beads and kisses to lucky parade-goers along the route.
A particularly desirable throw is a nod to Mardi Gras — a set of beads with green plastic shamrocks inserted.
A tradition in this city is for costumed marchers in customary green garb and green leprechaun derby hats to throw not only beads and other Carnival-style trinkets from their floats, but also to pass down cabbages, potatoes, carrots, onions and seasonings, netting parade-goers enough ingredients to make a traditional Irish stew.
Most of the Irish clubs have long traditions of parading and partying, and it’s not unusual for two and three generations of a family to be members.
“We were organized in the Channel in 1947 and have remained in the area with our annual Mass and parade for 66 years,” said Dennis Roubion, the publicity chairman of the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club, which parades on Saturday.
“Our club’s 1,400 members are ethnically diverse, but all claim strong ties to the Irish Channel neighborhood.”
The grand marshal is Bobby O’Neal, the man of the year is Floyd Hyer and the queen is Kayleigh Marie Denny. This club contributes to St. Michael’s Special School among other charities.
Family members usually abound as royalty in these Irish parades.
For example, the Metairie St. Patrick’s Day parade, which rolls Sunday, has as its theme “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” The grand marshal is the organization’s founder, captain and president, Johnny Marchese and his wife, Dorothy, is the queen.
Prior to this parade, the annual presentation of the shillelagh is on Friday beginning at noon at Fulco’s, 519 North Turnbull Drive, Metairie.
The event will include music, dancing, soft drinks, green beer and food.
If you still have some energy after dragging your children from parade to parade, you might want to attend some of the biggest street parties of the year.
Probably the oldest are the ones held at Molly’s at the Market, 1107 Decatur St. in the French Quarter (Friday) and in the street outside Parasol’s, an Irish Channel bar/restaurant at 3rd and Constance streets (Sunday). Both parties are free and open to the public (except for your libation purchases, of course).
The 12th annual block party to support St. Michael’s Special School is all day Thursday at Annunciation Square Playground, 1522 Chippewa St.
For a detailed parade schedule, see below.
Angela Carll is a contributing writer.