St. Patrick's parade, festival a day-long street party in Raleigh

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comMarch 16, 2013 

  • The story of St. Patrick

    St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. His Feast Day is March 17. Much is not known about St. Patrick, but he was likely kidnapped from Britain around the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He worked as a shepherd and spent much of his time cold and hungry and turned to prayer.

    He escaped from slavery after being told in a dream by God to travel west, the story goes. He returned to Britain and studied in monasteries. He became a priest, then a bishop.

    He traveled Ireland converting many to Christianity. It is said that St. Patrick used the shamrock’s three leaves on one stem to explain the Holy Trinity. The shamrock is still a symbol associated with St. Patrick and Ireland.

    He died between 461-464 at Saul, County Down, Ireland.

    Source: Raleigh St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee

— The St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival in Raleigh on Saturday drew thousands of green-clad folk jamming the downtown streets and sidewalks to honor Ireland’s patron saint.

St. Patrick must have given his blessings to Raleigh’s 31st annual event with warm weather and sunny skies. The day was made all the more brilliant with scores of Irish dancers, the magnificent droning of bagpipes, the raucous pounding of drums, and the trilling of clarinets by ensembles like the Bulltown Strutters and the kilt-wearing North Carolina State University Pipes and Drums. The event began at noon and ended at nightfall.

Kelly McGrath O’Doherty of Clayton, her husband David, who is a native of Dublin, and their son were among Saturday’s festival-goers. O’Doherty wore a green Irish soccer team T-shirt while enjoying the mid-afternoon in Moore Square. It was 11 years ago when O’Doherty attended the festival with a newborn baby in tow on a very hot day.

“I can remember breast-feeding in the bathroom stall of Tir na Nog,” O’Doherty said. “I didn’t care. It was St. Patrick’s Day – I was having a good time!”

Kindly, bespectacled James Joseph Patrick Kelly III, a Durham Public Schools employee, wore a plaid U.S. Marines kilt while sipping from a glass of beer with his wife Sandra at Fayetteville Street pub. About a dozen or more young people clad in outlandish festival attire stood in front of the couple singing a very loud birthday song to a member of their merry band.

“With (my name) I’m about as Irish as you can get,” Kelly said over the din. “But honestly, it’s just good to get out and come to downtown Raleigh and see what’s going on.”

A lot of folks were thinking the same thing. The big bars and restaurants on Fayetteville Street overflowed with customers, as did the smaller establishments on the side streets.

“This is great. I am so glad we opened here,” said David Sadeghi, who owns the Bolt Bar & Bistro. “There’s so much activity in this neighborhood.”

The nonprofit Raleigh St. Patrick’s Parade Committee began hosting the event nearly a decade after its beginnings in 1983 when about a dozen or so Irish-Americans marched down Wilmington Street to honor the patron saint.

This year’s parade marshal was Frank Mellage, a former chairman of the committee. Past marshals have included current city mayor Nancy McFarlane, now-retired Raleigh police chief Harry Patrick Dolan, current state Department of Public Safety Secretary and former council member Kieran Shanahan, and Helping Hand Mission founder Sylvia Wiggins.

“I have watched it grow over the years,” said O’Doherty, who formerly served on the parade committee. “They have really worked hard to make it a family event. It’s a wonderful part of Raleigh.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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