Hibernians Saint Patrick's Day Parade

If you ask the organizers of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Dogtown how their parade (now in its third decade) started, they will tell you that there are hundred and one different stories to explain the parade’s beginning.  But they add in their typical Irish way, “and each one is true!”  Actually planning for the first parade started over 30 years ago when a group of Hibernians decided that they wanted to hold a parade on St. Patrick’s actual feast day, March 17.  There was already a “St. Patrick’s Day” parade held in downtown St. Louis, but it was usually held on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. Also, the downtown parade was more of a civic event. The Hibernians wanted to mount a parade that would celebrate their Irish heritage.  At their first meeting they decided the parade should showcase a number of Irish-oriented themes. First and foremost, obviously the parade should honor St. Patrick as the Apostle of Ireland. They also felt the parade should promote Irish heritage history, culture, and be a celebration of their Irish-Catholic faith. Finally, they wanted to highlight the many contributions of Irish to America. The fi rst parade was launched in 1984. The crowds were not big, and it was an overcast day with drizzling rain. But the Hibernians actually saw it was a sign they were on the right track because it was a typical “soft Irish day.”  For the fi rst two years the parade was held in St. Louis County. But it was in 1986 the parade was moved to Dogtown, and as they say the “rest is history.”  Dogtown in South St. Louis, near Forest Park, was the city’s last remaining “Irish” neighborhood. Bringing the parade to Dogtown the Hibernians explained really helped the parade take off. The Hibernians original goal was to mount a parade similar to typical parade one might fi nd in a small own in Ireland in the 1800’s. Dogtown was the perfect setting to make this come true. In Ireland in those early days, the people of the towns would gather together and then parade through the town, past the church and then end the day with a festival. That’s what happens every year on March 17 in Dogtown. Members of the St. Louis Irish-American community marching as clans under their family crests and banners, travel down Tamm Avenue past St. James the Greater Church, past thousands of spectators cheering them on. Following the parade the streets of Downtown are blocked off for a big Irish festival that last into the evening.  Over the years the Hibernian Parade as grown to become one the premiere events in the City of St. Louis. Annually it is named one of the “top ten” of things to do in the city. St. Louis Magazine even ranked the Hibernian Parade in its top three, just behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard, to say the least a pretty elite group. The people of St. Louis have also spoken and for past last two years have named the Hibernian Parade in Dogtown the “Best Parade” in the city. So if you are in St. Louis on March 17, why don’t you travel down to the Dogtown neighborhood and see what all of the fuss is about. Come experience what many locals call the “real” Irish parade.

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10 Jan 2016