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Shamrocks Sprout This Weekend for Half Century Mark of St. Patrick's Day

Near Record 175 Entries Include 83 Floats, U.S. Marine Band

March 14, 2004       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Marchers from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish heritage group, personify the spirit of the Bay City St. Patrick's Day Parade.
 
Rose and Irv McEachern, longtime parade volunteers, head the parade entries and are parade historians.

      Paraders are putting final touches on floats for next Sunday's 50th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. We'll officially greet Spring on Saturday, March 20, just in time to step off proudly on Sunday down Center Avenue for the annual extravaganza thatso captures the hearts of Bay Cityans and visitors.

            We know of folks coming from as far as Washington, D.C., for the rites of the green season.

      Reports from parade entries chairpersons are that the parade will have atleast 175 entries, including 83 floats, three high school bands and the U.S. Marine Band.

      

Irv and Rose McEachern are in their glory this year, making the announcement that Gov. Jennifer Granholm will march with the Bay City Irish.

She follows the tradition of governors of the likes of G. Mennen "Soapy" Williams, who appeared several times with his trademark green polka dot tie during his long tenure, Bill Milliken and Jim Blanchard. Some of the state chief executives were known to let their hair down so much that they stopped in the Green Hut tavern to share a glass of grog with legendary barkeeps Jerry Witzke and Denny Hayes.

      The McEachern's are among the longest-serving parade volunteers, Rose startingin 1955 and Irv in 1963.

      They have cooked up special touches for the 50 year celebration, including decorations all in gold and special commemorative pins to be sold to parade afficionandos.

      The parade has come a long way since the first event stepped off at 5:30 p.m. on March 17, 1955. The promenade was only from Center and Monroe west to Washington and then south to City Hall. Now the parade is more than a mile long from Center and Livingston to the conclusion at Center and Saginaw.

      A parade record may have been set in 1957 when 17 bands, including the famous "Fighting Irish" marchers of the University of Notre Dame, showed up to join the burgeoning spectacle.

      In 1975 a new parade tradition was begun with the St. Patrick's Day Race, a five miler from Essexville, sponsored by the Bay Area Runners Club. Even Michigan House Speaker Bobby Crim showed up once to pace the racers from around the state. That race has evolved into a multi-faceted eventincluding a walking segment.

      As always, race planners fear snow but are ready to cope with it nonetheless. However, weather predictions are for warm weather, with Friday and Saturday 50 degree temperatures expected to hold through Sunday.



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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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