Bing Crosby had a wee bit of Irish in him. The late singer’s mother was a second-generation Irish-American.
That heritage was enough to earn Crosby the title of grand marshal of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Spokane.
His nephew, Ed Crosby, will ride alongside a cutout of Bing during the parade, while a selection of his Irish songs plays over the loudspeakers.
The parade will begin at noon and is expected to run until about 3 p.m. It will be the 40th annual parade organized by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
The group’s president, Keats McLaughlin, said the parade will follow its usual route: From Boone Avenue near the Spokane Arena, it will head south on Washington Street, then zig-zag west between Spokane Falls Boulevard and Main Avenue before turning north again on Post Street. It will end just north of Spokane City Hall and the river.
McLaughlin said the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick will give out candy for children along the parade route. For safety reasons, he also wanted to remind parents to make sure their little ones don’t run into the streets to get a closer look at the floats and performers.
The parade’s grand marshals have included city officials (mayors Vicki McNeill, John Powers, David Condon, Jim West, Jack Geraghty), actors and television personalities (Patty Duke, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Mark Peterson) and a host of sports figures (Bobby Brett, John Stockton, Mark Rypien, Mike Price, Robb Akey, Jim Walden). In 2016 the honor went to Eastern Washington University’s star football player, Cooper Kupp, and last year it went to EWU President Mary Cullinan.
Another nephew of Bing Crosby, Howard Crosby, has said his uncle was proud of his Irish roots. And in 2013, an Irish historian claimed he had found Crosby’s ancestral home – the town in County Cork, Ireland, where Bing’s maternal great-grandfather was living in late spring 1831. The historian, Noel Buckley, thought the site could make a popular tourist attraction, according to the Irish Examiner.
McLaughlin said Saturday’s parade will feature advertisements for the museum at Bing Crosby’s childhood home near Gonzaga University, which has hundreds of items of memorabilia.
“A lot of people don’t know that his house is here in Spokane,” McLaughlin said. “His actual house – this isn’t one that someone dug up and moved here.”
Spectators may want to bring an umbrella to the parade. Saturday’s forecast includes a little sunshine, a lot of clouds and a slight chance of rain showers.
“We’re expecting some sunny temperatures in the morning, but as we get into the afternoon there might be some rain,” McLaughlin said. “So we’re hoping for the luck of the Irish.”
But the parade will go on rain or shine, he said. “A little Irish mist never stopped us.”
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