Shamrocks and Shenanigans…
That is the theme this year of Kansas City’s huge St. Patrick’s Day parade. Not sure what that means, but I’m sure it isn’t quite as drunken as it might sounds (although we do tend to party today).
Several years ago a good friend of mine convinced me to head downtown with him to watch my first KC St Pat’s parade and I had a wonderful time. Life changes, friendships some times fade, but for years I kept going, even if I was by myself. Then a few things like health kept me away for a couple years ago, but then last year to my surprise, my husband R decided he would go to brunch with me and then we wound up seeing a bit of the parade. Had a grand old time! It made us decide that with Noah moved to KC to live with us, we would take him. And today we are!
A little nervous because Noah can have problems with crowds and with at least 35,000 people coming to the event, a crowd there will be. But we’ll guard and protect him, as good Daddy Bears do.
There are 34.5 million Americans who list their heritage as either primarily or partially Irish. 250,000 of those people live in the Kansas City area. I am around a quarter Irish, with my other three major ancestries being Scottish, English and French. I also have a little German, possibly Russian (so goes the great family tale) and yes, a dash of Native American as well. My blood does stir on this day and I really to feel my ancestors calling. Maybe I should learn a bit more about it? I think so!
The house is a stirring and we are preparing to head out. It’s around 30° right now but is going to get up to 55° today so it should be nice! We’re going to go to Bistro 303 for brunch with hopes they’ll have something for Noah to eat (that pesky vegetarian), and then we’ll walk the few blocks to the parade route. I’m hoping for a green beer just because. The corn beef is in the crock pot and we have things up our sleeve to make sure Noah has a nice dinner. I’ll be sure to post some pictures.
I hope you have a wonderful Saint Patrick’s Day!
🍀🍀 Éire go Brách! 🍀🍀
BG “Ben” Thomas
PS: On a less personal note, there used to be a wonderful website with the history of our parade, but it’s sadly gone. I did however manage to piece together some pieces of information which I will “quote” below….
Kansas City’s Irish roots date back to the mid-1800s, *“when immigrants lent their expertise and labor to help shape the rocky terrain of Westport and Independence into the metro we know today. These settlers brought their customs across the Atlantic Ocean as well, including music, dance, food and yes, St. Patrick’s Day.”
**The Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day parade – said today to be the 6th largest in the country – started out strong in 1873 but by 1891, anti-Catholic sentiment drove it to a close. It wasn’t until 1973 that a conversation in a cocktail lounge brought it back to life. And for a while after it came back to life, it was billed as the world’s shortest and worst parade.”
The 19th century Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parades were pageants of great pomp and circumstance. The Irish Benevolent Society would lead the processions composed of bands, police and fire department personnel and dignitaries of all description (and quite often the German and Italian Benevolent Societies) from church to church in day long extravaganzas often ending with grand balls.
In his book “From the Bottom Up: The Story of the Irish in Kansas City,” Pat O’Neill, Jr. (a former parade co-chairman and son of one of its founders), wrote: “From 1873 to 1891, Kansas City’s exploding Irish population flexed first its pride and later its civic muscle with a series of parades, which highlighted daylong celebrations that included Catholic Mass, luncheon banquets, songs, suds, whiskey and temperance meetings.”
The parade grew in popularity and size from 1873, but the last big parade in 1891 marked the beginning of a contentious era in which the specter of anti-Catholic sentiment grew vivid and violent. In the ensuing years of unrest and tension that marked the heyday of anti-Catholic sentiment, the Irish parades all but disappeared. The Journal (a local newspaper) printed huge ghost images of St. Patrick, a shamrock and a harp on its front page in 1893. The Times predicted that everybody of Irish descent would be wearing the green, but sneered in a headline that there would be “No Parade, Luckily”
The parade was resurrected in 1973 after a conversation at Hogerty’s Cocktail Lounge in downtown Kansas City between radio talk show host Mike Murphy, P.R. person Pat O’Neill, SR. and local saloon keeper Dan Hogerty.
On Friday March 15, 1973 Daniel Thomas Hogerty led a St. Patrick’s Day parade of secretaries, businessmen and shoppers on what would again become a Kansas City Tradition. The block and one-half parade route led from the Continental Hotel back to Hogerty’s lounge, of course. Billed as “the world’s shortest and worst parade” it drew hundreds of people to what became a downtown street party in the 1200 block of Baltimore.
By 1976 Hogerty, O’Neill, Murphy and friends were joined by the honorable Mayor Charles Wheeler and the parade featured a painted green calf along with several dogs and a goat. The City graciously parked a trash truck on Baltimore Avenue to collect the empty beer bottles.
But by 1978, the parade was growing, with a crowd of 35,000 turning out to view it. The route was moved downtown in 1981 and the parade that year was reported to be the third largest in the country.
In 2009, the parade moved to Midtown starting at Linwood and Broadway and proceeding south along Broadway to 43rd Street, a nod to the area’s Irish heritage.
The area around Redemptorist Catholic Church where the parade starts was traditionally called Kerry Patch in the 1800s after the large Irish immigrant population living there. Many of the stone buildings in the neighborhood were built by Irish with limestone quarried by Irish in the Penn Valley Park area.
* Visit KC: https://www.visitkc.com/visitors/events/everything-you-need-know-about-st-patricks-day-kc#sm.000001rf5jse96yf8lszx7ew2t0t6
** Midtown KC Post: http://midtownkcpost.com/local-st-pats-day-parade-history-almost-disappeared-history/