A Who's Who of Grand Marshals
Grand Marshals of St. Patrick's Day Parades across the nation
The colorful festivities surrounding the parade will showcase Irish Culture through live performance and entertainment, arts and crafts exhibitor presentations and food and beverage concessions. Children’s activities, cultural competitions and games are also planned.
The Quad Cities Grand Parade kicks off in Rock Island, Illinois and moves across the Mississippi River to Davenport, Iowa, making it the only interstate parade in America. This year ,the Quad Cities St. Patrick Society chose William M. Collins to cross the state lines as Grand Marshal of their 26th parade. Collins, who owned and operated Mac’s Tavern in Davenport for 14 years, beginning in 1990, was a popular choice. He is following in the footsteps of his father, Dr. John Collins, who was Grand Marshal of the seventh Quad Cities parade. This year’s border-breaking parade takes place on March 12th.
“Forever Green” is the theme of Denver, Colorado’s 49th parade, also held on March 12th. To follow this theme, the Denver St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee honored a member of the nonprofit Alpine Rescue Team, which responds to wilderness emergencies. Longstanding team member Roz Brown was chosen as Grand Marshal. Brown is a folk singer who plays the autoharp and has been entertaining folk fans since 1975. He started out volunteering to play his music at hospitals and nursing homes. Brown has released four recorded albums. Close to 250,000 people attend this annual event.
As part of a week-long celebration, the town of New London, Wisconsin changes its name to New Dublin for the duration of the festivities. In addition to the Grand Parade, the Shamrock Club of New Dublin sponsors events such as Hooligan Day, an Irish Céilí, Irish caroling, bands, dancers, stilt walkers, and “Finnegan’s Wake.”
This year’s parade, on March 19th, honors Tony and Lorraine Van Kampen as Grand Marshals. The Van Kampens have been active members of the New London community and own and operate two McDonald’s restaurants in the city. They are also involved with the Old Honor Glory Flight, which transports WWII veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit memorial sites.
The 30th Alexandria St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Virginia will be led by Grand Marshals Tom and Nancy VanCoverden. Tom is the President and CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers and has dedicated his life to supporting and strengthening health care centers around the country. His wife of 40 years, Nancy, has always been at Tom’s side and has contributed to the community through volunteering and donating to organizations like a young-adult mentor program and an organization that helps young baseball players enter the minor leagues.
Both the VanCoverdens have been big supporters of Ballyshaners, Inc. the main promoters of the parade.
In addition to the grand parade, held on March 5th, Alexandria’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities also include a classic car show and a dog show.
The Seattle parade, the largest and oldest parade in the Northwest, is the high point of an Irish Week celebration that includes an Irish Soda Bread contest, a Mass for Peace between Catholics and Protestants, and an Irish festival. The 39th parade, on March 12th, is led by Grand Marshals Michael D. McKay and his brother John Larkin McKay, both of whom served as United States Attorneys for the Western District of Washington. Mike McKay held the position from 1989 to 1993 and John served from 2001 to 2007. Mike is also a founder of McKay Chadwell law firm. John is a law professor at Seattle University School of Law.
The McKay brothers are very proud of their Irish heritage and have roots in counties Tipperary, Cavan, and Galway. Both brothers have visited Ireland many times.
Marilee Fitzgerald, Director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, was chosen as Washington, D.C.’s Grand Marshal. Fitzgerald fits the 40th parade’s theme of “A Heritage of Education and Community Service.” She oversees 194 schools in 12 countries and seven states that offer education to the dependents of our uniformed service personnel.
Fitzgerald also serves as the Principal Deputy to the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy. This year’s parade in the country’s capital is on March 13th.
Parades Around the World
In Ireland St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with with parades around the country and a festival lasting four days in Dublin, the nation’s capital. This year’s parade promises to be truly spectacular. In honor of Dublin being named UNESCO City of Literature, the festival parade will bring a specially commissioned short story “Brilliant” by Roddy Doyle to life on the streets, with some of Ireland’s finest performers taking part. Marching bands from across the globe will also take part, in what is billed as the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Boxing champion Katie Taylor, 24, will serve as this year’s grand marshal.
Since 1824, Montreal has been hosting Canada’s oldest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The three-hour event features floats, bands, community organizations and cultural groups. This year’s grand marshal is Father John Walsh, whose roots lie in Killarney and Cork. Father Walsh is an active member of the Irish-Canadian community and is known for his work on News Talk Radio CJAD.
The largest Irish event in Japan is the Tokyo St. Patrick’s Day Parade, organized by the Irish Network Japan. It began in 1992 for the purpose of introducing Irish culture to the Japanese people. With the support of the Irish Ambassador to Japan, James Sharkey, the parade took off and is now entering its twentieth year.
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