Celebrating 52 years of Irish tradition, the Denver St Patrick’s Day Parade is a fine example of what being Irish American is all about. The parade has grown into the largest annual gathering of Coloradans, who come out in force to celebrate Ireland's patron saint.
This year’s theme, Sweet Home Colorado, celebrates the quality of life in the beautiful state and
honors Irish culture. Of course, you don’t have to have Irish lineage to celebrate. They come together from a variety of communities and backgrounds, united on that day to celebrate Irishness.
Grand Marshal of the 52nd Colorado parade is Jon Chandler, award winning musician and seventh "Best Living Western Musician," according to True West Magazine. Chandler is also a past winner of the Spur Award for Best Song from the Western Writers of America.
Chandler's music depicts the history of the contemporary west. He is also a Spur Award-winning author of Western fiction, a contributor to several magazines, and the voice of the Historic Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs.
He will lead the participants, over 10,000 marchers and 200 entries including pipe bands, step dancers, floats, police, fire and emergency service agencies, military, equestrians, charities, marching bands, businesses and other city’s dignitaries in a truly amazing event.
1972: Mayor Bill McNicholas. Credit:http://www.denverstpatricksdayparade.com
The parade celebrated 50 years in 2012 and continues to thrive year after year with a strong sense of community drive behind it. The parade is the largest gathering of Colorado residents, where everyone sets aside their own heritage to become Irish for a day.
The parade is driven by a group of volunteers formed 52 years ago and officially incorporated as the Denver St Patrick’s Day Parade.
St Patrick’s Day parades in Denver date back to 1889, when Denver held it’s first parade. The Denver St Patrick’s Day Parade website reports that traditions in 1889 Division One of the Ancient Order of Hibernians kicked off the celebrations with a grand ball. Archives show that The Rocky Mountain News covered the event, reporting that it was “the most prominent and pleasing social event to the city.”
However, the Denver parade faded away during the 1920s and it was only in 1962 that it was reborn with the visit of Dublin Lord Mayor, Robert Briscoe. That year's parade is, therefore, the first annual parade.
The Lord Mayor was greeted by a welcoming committee consisting of LT Robert Knous and Bernard Duffy, proprietor of Duffy’s Shamrock Tavern.
The new official parade was chartered by 15 prominent business men. The Irish fellowship club also played a pivotal role in organizing the parade.
The parade also features a special talent pageant where each year a “Queen of the Emerald Isle” is crowned. In 1965 the name was shortened to “Queen Colleen”. Queen Colleen refers to an Irish maiden whose character reflects compassion, kindness, intellect, social responsibility and of course, her Irish heritage.
Another famous Grand Marshall was Michael O’Moran from Ireland, who was the Minister of Lands and a brother of John Moran, one of those who helped revive interest in St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
With the revival of the parades the parade's first chairman was quoted as saying, “Everyone was pleased, it was an unqualified success, we’ll be back next year.”
Some 50 years later the parade is a huge success. The parade, the largest Irish celebration west of the Mississippi, and will step off at the earlier time of 9:30AM (MST) on Saturday, March 15.
Check out some of the highlights from last year's parade.