Missouri celebrates all things Irish

Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

St. Patrick's Day Parade 2009, Rolla

Rolla is one Missouri city that goes all out for St. Patrick's Day

Over the years, there is no day that makes me think of family and good times more than March 17.  Although not an official holiday, Irish conviviality is celebrated throughout Missouri by the Irish and Irish at Heart in big cities and small towns alike, with parades, “wearing of the green,” music and songs, Irish food and drink, and activities for kids such as crafts, coloring and games. It’s a time for fun, and some communities even go so far as to dye rivers, streams, and fountains green!

But my family knows this. Our family St. Patrick’s celebration tradition has included annual attendance at the Snake Saturday Parade in North Kansas City.  My Dad used to park his old pickup to reserve a good spot along the parade route the night before, and all of us (including cousins, nieces and nephews and friends) would use the bed of the truck to get the best viewing spot.  As our family and friends grew, we would line up other family station wagons and cars to park alongside the truck (pre SUVs).

What started out as a wee celebration in the parking lot of a North Kansas City hotel, the 26th Annual Snake Saturday Parade has grown to become one of the Northland’s favorite yearly events. This family friendly celebration always happens on Snake Saturday (the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day).  This year, the fun starts at 11 a.m. Saturday (March 13), rain or shine (and it has been cold in many a year).  The parade begins at 14th Street and Swift in North Kansas City and continues north to Armour. From Armour, the parade goes east to Howell St. and ends at 18th.

These days, our family goes in many directions as we celebrate Irish fun in Missouri. Steve and I will enjoy being in the 15th Annual St. Patrick’s Parade in downtown Lexington this Saturday.  We were delighted to realize we had accepted an invitation to spend time with friends from the area only to discover they show their Irish pride, too! Our parade begins at 2 p.m. in downtown Lexington. Following the parade, we will enjoy the original purpose of the trip; a private guided tour of the Battle of the Hemp Bales and some of the 150 historic homes and public buildings built before the Civil War. I’ll be wearing my green proudly as I tour this magnificent Missouri river town.

Speaking of great towns, nobody does St. Pats better than Rolla, Missouri. They have already started the celebration. Theirs includes a snake invasion, follies, gonzo and games, a coronation and knighting ceremony, street painting, a parade, and a grand ball. The St. Pat’s Parade is the main event of the celebration, drawing thousands of people to Rolla each year. The parade is exciting for all, young and old alike. For details, visit http://stpats.mst.edu/Events.html.

2010 marks the fourth year the Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson, www.TitanicBranson.com, has used music and song throughout the entire month of March to honor the memory of the Irish men and women who built and sailed the ship. A favorite attraction to see while visiting Branson, this month is always a special one aboard the Titanic for those of us with Irish ancestry.

Elsewhere, on Friday, at the O’Bannon Center in Buffalo, Missouri, the St. Pat’s Celebration will begin at 5 p.m. with dinner that includes corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, bangers and mash; Irish soda bread, bread pudding, Irish whiskey cake, and beverages. Enjoy an auction followed by music by Jon Reneau and Sarah Hook, Irish dancing by Heidi Reneau, followed by the infamous Scotty the Fox.  For more information, contact Kathy Kesler at the Buffalo Chamber at 417-345-2852 or e-mail chamber@buffalococ.com.

Not to be overlooked, the St. Louis’ annual Irish celebration, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Irish Dinner, takes place at 6 p.m. Friday, the night before the parade, at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, in the downtown area. The Irish dinner begins with cocktails, entertainment provided by the band Irish Xiles. During dinner, you will be introduced to various dignitaries from Ireland and the United States. And, after dinner, dance to the music of the legendary band Sh-Boom. It is a fitting kickoff to the events of the parade weekend.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, one of the largest events of its kind in the St. Louis area, The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Run, will bring in about 9,000 participants. The five-mile jaunt travels the streets of downtown and midtown St. Louis. Following the run, visitors will enjoy events in Kiener Plaza. Find out all of the details by visiting http://www.irishparade.org/site/run/index.html

The 41st Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, http://www.irishparade.org/site/parade, will take place on Saturday, at noon, in downtown St. Louis. The parade takes place rain or shine. It will begin at 18th and Market streets and proceed east to its conclusion at Broadway and Market streets. Regularly noted as one of the top in the country, the parade will include more than 120 units, including marching bands, floats, huge cartoon-character balloons, 5000-plus marchers, and lots of clowns. More than 250,000 spectators, the largest of any event in downtown St. Louis, are expected to attend, packing the streets with smiling Irish eyes and festive green attire.

My dear friends started the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration held in Downtown Kirksville and it is still a fun tradition.  This year’s event is sure to be another successful fun-filled family event with a run, parade, Little Miss and Mr. competition, scavenger hunt, and more! http://www.kvstpats.com/.

Back in the Kansas City area, the 32nd Annual Westport St. Patrick’s Day run will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Westport Road and Pennsylvania Avenue. Following the four-mile run, there is a Kids Fun Run with great gift bags for the kids. Race participants, volunteers and families are welcome to stay in Westport to enjoy discounted food and drink specials, along with the After Party and Awards Ceremony. For details, visit www.sportkc.org/sportkc.aspx?pgID=866&event_id=271.

Also this Saturday, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” might be heard at the Irish Idol contest, and a variety of vendors and food booths will be found in Springfield at the Park Central Square. Their parade starts at 2 p.m. and events include a Best Irish Pet contest. (I’m not sure exactly what being an Irish pet means; our two dogs always have their “wearing of the green” because I put Irish scarves around their necks.  But I don’t think you can classify shelties as Irish pets; and no, I have never dyed them green). Anyway, held throughout downtown, more information on this celebration can be found at www.springfieldstpatsparade.org.

On St. Patrick’s Day, my mother will be joined by my aunt and uncle as they share a float with fellow members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  The three of them serve in various leadership roles with this important organization, and it is due to their passion that the rest of the family enjoys this holiday so much.  For some wonderful current history of the Kansas City parade I have grown up with, go to http://kcirishparade.com/about-us/history/history-the-modern-era.

On Wednesday, in addition to the Kansas City parade, (where other members of my family, including my brother, Sean, and sisters Maureen and Christeen and their families, will be waving at Mom with their most festive attire), there will be plenty of music, marchers, and lots and lots of green at the 27th annual Ancient Order of Hibernians Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in St. Louis. The big annual Irish event kicks off at noon on the saint’s feast day, in one of St. Louis’ oldest Irish neighborhoods, the Clayton/Tamm (Dogtown) area on the city’s south side.

As you can see, there are plenty of St. Patrick’s Day activities around Missouri, and you’re sure to find one that’s right for you and your family and friends. No matter where you celebrate, enjoy the festivities.

Erin Go Braugh!