March 14, 2009 in City, News

Fans of St. Patrick flock to parade

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Irish eyes were smiling on Greg Burnette, age 35 of Spokane, as he joined 208 of his friends on the Irish Drinking Team on Saturday in downtown Spokane, Wash., for fun at the St. Patrick’s Day.
(Full-size photo)

It’s perhaps the only time you’ll see the cast of “Braveheart” run down Spokane Falls Boulevard chasing a leprechaun. Granted, William “Braveheart” Wallace was Scottish. But still, on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone’s a little bit Irish.

There were plenty of leprechauns to be found at the 31st annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday. The cheerful crowd was dressed in green and wearing funny hats, and children lined the streets hoping for candy, which many entrants handed out by the bagful.

“It went very, very well,” said Pat O’Connor, president and parade chairman of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. O’Connor said there were around 148 entries in the parade, which lasted about an hour and a half. A truck from the Second Harvest Food Bank kicked off the parade and city street cleaners were the last entry, cleaning up the candy the kids missed.

O’Connor estimated the crowd at about 30,000 people who braved the cold weather and even a little rain. Numbers were down a little this year, he said, adding the weather may have kept some spectators at home.

Parade organizers start planning for the big day in September. Commercial entries pay $100, but families and nonprofit organizations can enter for free.

The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick also hold other events this time of year. They selected the Principal of the Year, Lisa Pacheco from Logan Elementary, and the Student on Parade, Shane Lee, also from Logan. The two rode in the parade and the school received a new computer for that honor.

The group also gathered mascots from local sports teams such as the Spokane Shock, the Chiefs, the Indians and Eastern Washington University to visit children in hospitals on Friday.

Dave Hinton came down to the parade for the eighth straight year dressed as a giant (compared to the real ones) leprechaun, complete with striped socks, green knickers and a large green hat. He said he sells T-shirts for the occasion and mingles with the crowd.

“I do it every year,” Hinton said.

Van Orman watched the parade from the patio of O’Doherty’s. The restaurant and pub had a line of revelers waiting to get in; Orman showed up at 7:30 a.m. to get his place.

“(I like) the amount of people and the diversity that you don’t see every day,” said Orman, who was sporting a green beard for the occasion.

That diversity wasn’t only in the crowd, but in the parade entries. Spectators could see the Angus Scott Pipe Band, old cars, green horses, fire engines, stretch Hummer limousines, and people dressed in green costumes just out having a good time.

Tony Fulgaro brought his 2-year-old son, Nicholas, down to the parade.

“He loves the big trucks and cement mixers,” Fulgaro said while he monitored the amount of candy Nicholas was eating. Fulgaro liked the fact that the parade is really the first event that brings Spokane outside after a long winter.

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