It's kind of a mix of Mardi Gras and the Fourth of July parades. There's all the aforementioned sights, spectacles, and treats for the kiddies, but also bustling Irish pubs and LOTS of alcohol for the grown ups. Starting at 2pm (enough time to get home from church and start the corned beef and cabbage boiling on the stove), the street is lined 10 deep in most parts (especially in front of Nemo's Pub and the Gaelic League) with locals of the oldest and traditionally Irish neighborhood of Detroit, ex patriots of the city looking to relive the glory days of Detroit, and a bunch of suburbanite college kids looking for an excuse to get drunk (like they need one).
The participants include Irish politicians, Celtic Dance groups, Irish civic organizations, half a dozen pipe and drum corps, and several marching bands sporting as much green as their uniforms can afford, as expected for such a holiday. Beyond that, however, there are TONS of other groups that make this well worth braving the increasingly drunken crowd. There are karate dojos, DFD Clown Brigade, limo-busses sponsored by local pubs (occasionally throwing Jell-o shots), youth groups passing out flyers and throwing strings of green beads, and my favorite – a Star Wars club that marched in FULL costume. Not the cheap $25 costumes, mind you, but the professional quality stuff that usually costs hundreds, of not thousands of dollars. Those are the kind of geeks I can relate too (or could had I the finances for such frivolous purchases).
The weather was unbelievably accommodating this year. Just enough chill to justify a light jacket (or in my case, Irish wool sweater), but BRIGHT sunshine and blue skies. Sonya, the kids, Leigh and I piled into my car after Leigh spiked Liam's hair and painted green tiger stripes his face (the theme this year was the Celtic Tiger) and got there just in time to catch the beginning. Open alcohol is not only common, but almost expected at this parade, so I brought the flask Sonya got me for Christmas full of whisky, which I was more than happy to share with the rest of the crowd that gathered with us across the street from Nemo's (THE place to be for the parade and the holiday itself). By mid-parade, there was myself, the kids, Sonya, her parents, her brother Jeremy, his neighbor Frank, Leigh, my sister Val, her friends Stephan and Nikki and a few others. We had an absolute blast watching the kids scramble for candy as it shattered to powder in its wrappers on the ground, catching beads, and drinking beer, whisky, and the homemade Irish cream Sonya made.
From there we went to Sonya's parents' house a couple blocks away and all spent the next several hours there, drinking, chatting (loudly), laughing, and eating corned beef, cabbage, potato soup, and Irish soda bread.
Aside from neglecting to do our taxes once again, it was one of the best days I have had in a long time. Next year, the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day, you MUST plan to come down and join us. Ask anyone who's ever been, and they'll agree – it's the most fun you can possibly have on a Sunday afternoon in March!
Sunday, March 16th, 2008!!! Mark it down now!!!