The Emerald city’s Irish Week festivities will include the Washington city going green, bagpipers, Irish dancers and former Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny leading the 2020 St. Patrick's Day parade.
North America's Pacific gateway is home to the global innovation and prosperity of Amazon.com, barrier-breaking life-sciences research of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a thirst-quenching craft beer culture and stunning skyline backdropped by the majestic Cascade range and a sun-kissed Puget Sound.
No wonder Seattle's hot. The Seattle Times reports that the Emerald City has been ranked among the top 5 fastest-growing big cities in America for six consecutive years.
“We like to say Seattle was built on the shoulders of the Irish and carries the dreams of the Emerald Isle,” says John Keane, Honorary Consul to Ireland in Seattle and author of Irish Seattle, a history of the Irish who helped shape Seattle (2007. Arcadia Publishing).
With nearly 1 million Washingtonians now claiming Irish as their primary heritage, the Irish flocked to Seattle at the end of the 19th century fueling the economic prosperity of the time and influencing a community that is emerging with emerald brilliance on the global landscape.
But there’s more to the story of the Irish in Seattle, especially when you consider the iconic St. Patrick's Day celebrations in America today.
Spoiler alert. The Emerald City’s part of the conversation.
Since emigrating from Ireland to Seattle in the 1970s, Keane is among a handful of civic leaders that have helped establish the Emerald City’s Irish Week festivities as among the top 10 in America - rivaling the great ethnic celebrations in Boston, Chicago, New York, and even Savannah.
This year, amid the dazzling green light displays atop its office towers and sports stadiums, the memorable droning of bagpipes and cheerful Irish dancers, Seattle’s Irish Week will have a markedly international flavor as a former Irish prime minister has accepted the city’s invitation to serve as grand marshal of its St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s place at the head of the procession is important when you consider Seattle's emerging role in the global economic, cultural and tourism stage.
And its relationship with Ireland.
“Seattle has evolved into one of the country's major growth markets and its economic ties to Ireland are growing in importance,” says Mike McQuaid, a fourth-generation Seattleite and longtime civic leader with deep Irish roots.
As Seattle gets gussied up for its annual St. Patrick's Day Parade Saturday, March 15, where tens-of-thousands of revelers festooned in shamrocks and green line Fourth Avenue through the city’s downtown core, McQuaid will be on hand to welcome St. Patrick back to the Emerald City and kick-off the party.
The grand arrival of the 1,500-year-old patron saint of Ireland (in reality, beneath mitre and vestment, he's former Seattle Deputy Mayor Tom Keefe) and delivery into the care of the venerable Seafair Pirates, comes about the day before the parade in the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood where Amazon and other tech employers; Google, Facebook, and Apple now take their place alongside Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks and the Seattle area’s growing roster of businesses with ties to Ireland.
It’s a delightful tongue-in-cheek reenactment of the Gaelic icon’s saintly legend. But one that underscores the growing international and cultural prominence — and playful spirit of this revitalized and dynamic community.
McQuaid and local journalist Casey McNerthney preside over the shenanigans, sporting top hats, tails and plenty of emerald regalia, with a proclamation reading that may very well be the groundhog's envy of Punxsutawney Phil.
"Seattle gets its green on like no other," McQuaid explains. "If you think you're in Seattle's sister city of Galway, you'd be forgiven."
To learn more about Irish Week in Seattle visit www.IrishWeek.org.