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From New York to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and from Rock Island, Illinois to New London, Wisconsin, thousands of people from a range of backgrounds will come together to cheer on and participate in St. Patrick’s Day Parades. Here’s a look at some outstanding Irish Americans around the country who have been chosen by their communities to lead the marchers, dancers, bands, societies, and floats down the parade route.
New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is the largest in the world, with around two million spectators and 250,000 participants. In its 250th year, the New York parade honors world renowned Irish-American writer Mary Higgins Clark as Grand Marshal. Clark is best known for her best-selling suspense novels such as Where Are The Children? She was born and raised in the Bronx but traces her Irish roots to western Ireland, with ancestors from counties Roscommon, Sligo, and Cork. Clark is a current board member of the American Irish Historical Society and she was also given the papal honor, Dame of Saint Gregory. The 83-year-old Clark will lead the parade up Fifth Avenue in a horse-drawn carriage on St. Patrick’s Day, making her the first Grand Marshal to not walk the route.
Savannah is home to the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. The first parade was held in 1813 and is now entering its 187th year. The three-hour celebration, held on March 17, has over 350 marching units. The Grand Marshal chosen to lead this grand celebration is Walter Crawford who traces his roots back to Ireland on both sides of his family. Crawford said that serving as the parade’s grand marshal is something he’s often dreamed of. “I’ve never missed a parade,” he said. “You grow up with it and grow into it.”
Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is another grand event. On the morning of the parade, the Chicago River is dyed a bright emerald green to represent the lands of Ireland. This year’s parade, on March 12th, features Mayor Richard J. Daley and his wife Maggie as grand marshals. Mayor Daley, who decided not to run for re-election, has held his position as Chicago’s Mayor since 1989, making him the longest serving mayor in the city’s history. Throughout his tenure, he has helped improve the city’s education system, economy, gun control, and overall quality of life.
In 2010, Northwestern University Hospital dedicated a cancer center in Maggie Daley’s name. Maggie has been battling cancer since 2002.
The theme of this year’s parade in Philadelphia, held on March 13th, is “St. Patrick, Bless Our Religious Sisters Who Serve, Inspire and Educate.” In recognition of this theme, Sister James Anne Feerick was chosen as Grand Marshal. She has been a member of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary since 1960, and serves as director and teacher at the IHM Educational Center in Bryn Mawr. In 2010, Sister James Anne was a recipient of the Mayo Association of Philadelphia’s President’s Award. She has kept Irish culture as a significant part of her life. Growing up Sister James Anne played the violin on the “Will Regan’s Irish Hour.” She was also a student at the Sean Lavery School of Irish Dance in West Philadelphia, and has taught her own Irish dance lessons, giving her the nickname the “dancing nun.”
Running for over 240 years, the Philadelphia parade is the second oldest in the country.
In the sunshine state of Florida, Wini Amaturo will be Grand Marshal of the Fort Lauderdale parade on March 12th – part of an all day Irish Fest. Amaturo has lived in Fort Lauderdale since 1970. Along with her husband Joseph, she has contributed greatly to the community. In 1989, the couple created the Amaturo Theatre at the Performing Arts Center and the Amaturo Family Foundation, which supports needy children, Catholic activities, and education. Amaturo currently serves on the boards of Saint Thomas University in Miami and Boston College. Parade participants stroll down Las Olas Boulevard along a green line that is painted by the mayor in a ceremony the day before the parade.
The Parade Committee for the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, on the world’s shortest street, chose a big name for their honoree. In Hot Springs, Arkansas, actor John Corbett will march down the 98-foot-long Bridge Street as grand marshal on St. Patrick’s Day. Corbett is known for his roles on television shows like Sex and the City and Northern Exposure, and in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Corbett’s girlfriend, Bo Derek, served as last year’s grand marshal. The tiny spectacle also features the World’s Largest Leprechaun and draws around 30,000 viewers.