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‘They’ve been waiting for this’: Sea of green in downtown Spokane signals return of St. Patrick’s Day parade after two-year pandemic stoppage

UPDATED: Sat., March 12, 2022

The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade was led by the Fairchild Air Force Base color guard, shown Saturday turning north from Main Avenue onto North Wall Street Saturday in downtown Spokane.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade was led by the Fairchild Air Force Base color guard, shown Saturday turning north from Main Avenue onto North Wall Street Saturday in downtown Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Shamrocks, flannel kilts and bagpipes were missing from the streets of downtown Spokane the last two years as the pandemic halted the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. But thousands, many decked out in green attire, welcomed the return of the 42nd annual parade on Saturday.

Sabrina Torres said she and her family and friends arrived two and a half hours early to secure a good viewing spot on Washington Street near Main Avenue. Torres said they ordered food from McDonald’s and played games in anticipation of the noon parade start time.

The parade, organized by the nonprofit Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, started on Washington Street and then zigzagged from there through the northern edge of downtown.

“We’ve been so sad, so sad, my kids especially,” Torres said of the parade being canceled the last two years. “They’ve been waiting for this. They got up bright and early, 6 o’ clock this morning, waiting to come.”

She said they try to attend every year, adding that she loves getting her loved ones together.

“I’m just glad that they brought it back,” Torres said.

Torres’ 8-year-old daughter, Vida, said she loved the parade’s big floats. She also collected candy, her favorite being Swedish Fish.

“She’s been grabbing extra (candy) because her sister’s foot’s broken,” Sabrina Torres said.

Joe Carter, who wore a fake green beard, said he, his wife and their seven children were “super excited” to attend Saturday’s parade after a two-year hiatus.

“Man, it’s so good to see everyone out and having fun and smiling at each other,” Carter said. “It’s been great. It’s been a real blessing.”

One of Carter’s children, 10-year-old Micah, collected a fair amount of candy on the corner of Stevens Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard, but the favorite thing he got was a key chain.

As for the parade itself, “I really liked the llamas,” Micah Carter said.

Several types and sizes of floats, vehicles and animals weaved through downtown.

Joy Katterfeld, of the nonprofit Second Chance Ranch in Spokane, rode through the parade on an Arabian-mixed rescue horse that sported a green leprechaun hat and green hooves, in spite of its “broken” ear. Its fur was also painted green. Katterfeld said it was the horse’s 12th St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The Spokane County Firefighters Pipes and Drums marched in red and green flannel kilts playing Irish music. The parade’s dignitaries followed.

Grand marshal Matt Santangelo, former Hoopfest executive director, sat in the back of a gray Ford pickup truck. This year’s Irish Man, Matty McIntyre, Gonzaga Prep boys basketball coach, rode in a black Ford F-350, while Irish Woman Laury McLaughlin, who said she does volunteer work with a variety of organizations, rode through the parade with her Irish water spaniel dog in her lap.

Ciara Conley, who was named Irish Colleen of the Year, rolled through with her parents driving behind her. “Colleen” is a generic Irish term for a woman or girl.

Conley said she works at Conley’s Place restaurant, which her parents own, in Spokane Valley. She said her parents also own Elephant Boys boating store in Spokane Valley.

A white pickup truck towed an Elephant Boys pontoon through the parade as Irish flags attached to both vehicles blew in the wind.

“It’s a fun experience,” Conley said of the parade. “It’s good to be a part of when you know you are Irish.”

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