Spokane’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the annual spring rite marking a once-solemn religious feast day, begins at noon Saturday. Only Irish need apply.
Err…except for that half-English president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and the Sons of Norway with their Viking ship, and the Italian Americans…Oh what the heck.
“Spray your dog, spray your hair, and you can come. We take people off the curb,” says volunteer Maureen Hurley Peterson.
The 18th annual shenanigan, now 220 entries long, is expected to attract tens of thousands of spectators and several Shriners in teeny cars.
It’s a far cry from the early parades when entries numbered just 28 and the city closed just two lanes of Riverside for the event.
Now the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick fete is one of the city’s largest street events, behind Bloomsday and the Lilac Festival.
An estimated 2,000 volunteers will assemble and downtown hotels and motels are booked solid.
“The Irish Man of the Year practically had to stay in Coeur d’Alene because we couldn’t find him a room downtown,” said parade chairman Bill Flanigan. “We’ve had a tremendous response.”
This year’s luminaries include Declan Kelly, Consul General of Ireland for the Pacific Region (who’s skipping San Francisco’s party for this one) and U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt of Spokane.
Other honorees include:
Grand marshal Tim Welsh, president of Garco Construction, which recently built the Spokane Arena.
Irish Woman of the Year Kerry Lynch, president of Alliance Pacific Inc., and a founding member of the Spokane-Limerick Sister City Society.
Irish Man of the Year John Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Alaska Airlines.
Disney’s Donald Duck, Daisy and Goofy.
Irish Colleen of the Year Shiloh Welk, and her court, Charli Ellis, Dawn Marie Green and Laura Conley.
Dennis Olson, principal of Chester Elementary, chosen to be “Principal on Parade” from 4,500 student nominations from Spokane to Valley, Wash. The honor brings his school several prizes, including $2,000 in computer equipment donated by Acme TV and Computers. The contest was tight.
“There are a lot of principals in this community who are real stars as far as their students are concerned and it was very difficult to pick one winner,” said Kim Boston, director of community relations with Cox Cable, a co-sponsor with the Disney Channel.
Proceeds from this year’s Friendly Sons parade will go to the Spokane Fire Department to buy smoke detectors for the elderly and poor, and to help low-income kids enter cars in the Knights of Columbus annual soapbox derby.
The Friendly Sons were founded by Irishmen who fought in George Washington’s army. Membership requirements include “U.S. citizenship, Irish ancestry and good moral character.”
The Spokane chapter, which numbers about 200, accepts and promotes women (four have been president), people of all ethnic backgrounds and, well, just about anybody. Just like the parade.
“Everyone who’s Irish is welcome and on that day, everyone’s Irish,” says Tim Higgins.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of St. Patrick’s Day Parade route
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LIVE COVERAGE The parade will be broadcast live on Cox Cable 25 in Spokane and on Channel 13 in Coeur d’Alene and rebroadcast March 21 and 28 at 4 p.m.