Irish wolfhounds made a soggy march down Fayetteville Street on Saturday, while green dye dripped from spectators’ beards and the band Barleycorn and Rye played “Cockles and Mussels” to a few brave fans huddled under umbrellas.
But the Irish persist, especially on almost St. Patrick’s Day, and the 33rd annual celebration trudged on through pounding rain.
“It’s regionally appropriate,” said Kim Ebel, a festival volunteer. “Ireland is a rainy country.”
The festival endured more than weather as the city now requires nearly $10,000 for a weekend police presence among various other fees. But organizers in green saw through rose-colored eyes Saturday, vowing to shake up enough support for future parades and avoid cancellation.
“I doubt that’s going to happen,” said Rich Kaznicki, marching as “big chief” of Oakwood’s Krewe of Leonidas, sporting an elephant trunk mask and a feathered headdress. “We’re not talking about thousands and thousands of dollars. We’ll make it happen somehow.”
The parade featured all the staples St. Patrick’s observance normally commands: green knee socks with “Beer” knitted in yellow, clowns on scooters, a Clydesdale in a derby and a mermaid.
The sidewalks, though wet, still saw shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Dogs of every variety came dressed in emerald-colored canine garb of all kinds. Beagles. Basset hounds. Labs. Even Rottweilers turned Irish for a day.
“They did really well,” said Debbie Storer with Rottweiler Heart Rescue. “They even went over to the sidewalks and visited with people.”
But the weather provided no rainbows, only an Irish mist that built into a full-on soaker.
Irish dancers wore clear plastic ponchos, the green showing through underneath. Helping Hand Mission Director Sylvia Wiggins wore an umbrella-shaped hat, though her dancers leaped and gyrated in uniforms meant for warmer, dryer times.
Another note of sadness floated down from the clouds. Saturday’s parade was the first in many years without Pete Leary, Raleigh’s unofficial, striped-stocking-wearing leprechaun who died in December. His passing was noted with his picture posted on the float for the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
The procession offered another sight unwelcome to many: a Notre Dame-themed float, carrying the only “Irish” a Duke or UNC basketball fan might sneer at.
But the Irish as a culture have endured strife more troubling than wet wool and damp beards. Not even the prospect of fundraising challenges could chase off paradegoers’ eagerness for another run next year, when the road, hopefully dryer, will rise to meet them again.
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