No blarney: Rare calendar occurrence prompts early St. Pat’s celebrations

Sure’n we’ll be celebratin’ a touch early this year in St. Paul because of very rare circumstances.

The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been a St. Paul fixture for decades, held every March 17 to honor the great Saint from the Emerald Isle.

But this year, March 17 falls during Holy Week, thanks to a very early Easter (Ash Wednesday occurs next week). So, the pope and Roman Catholic bishops around the country have moved the official St.  Patrick’s Feast Day to March 15, for this year only, and asked revelers to move up their proceedings.

Brian Keenan, president of the St. Patrick’s Association, said his group has acceded to the church’s wishes and will hold the parade on Saturday, March 15.

It will start at noon, as usual, and run the usual route, up Fourth Street, from Sibley to Rice Park. You can learn more at the group’s website.

“A lot of the larger cities, Chicago, Atlanta and others, are doing the same thing,” Keenan said.

No word yet from Minneapolis about their downtown parade, traditionally held on St. Patrick’s Day at 6:30 p.m. Keenan said he hasn’t heard from them and isn’t sure who’s in charge this year. The Minneapolis group’s website hasn’t been updated since 2006.

In the past, the St. Paul parade has been moved to Saturday whenever St. Patty’s Day falls on a Sunday, Keenan said. The last time it would have landed in Holy Week was 1940, but the present-day parades didn’t begin until 1967.

This won’t happen again for 152 years
And the next time that will happen is in 152 years, Keenan said. So mark those calendars for the year 2160.

For many, the change will be a blessing; they won’t have to sneak away from work or take a holiday or a “sick” day.

But many kids, whose parents take them out of school for the afternoon to attend the parade, might not be pleased.

Saturday parades always draw the biggest crowds, so the change is good for the organization, Keenan said.  Last year, on a Saturday, they drew a record 100,000 people to march or watch, he said.

This year’s Mr. Pat, by the way, will be Tommy Barrett, executive director of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board. As the 2004 Vulcanus Rex of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, he gained lots of experience with parades and waving. 

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