About Town

But don't worry, the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin, along with the Westown Association, will help you remember to celebrate St. Patrick's Day on Saturday, March 13 (just in time for early returners) when they host Milwaukee's 38th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Though St. Patrick's Day is on March 17, the festivities will begin early in Milwaukee. The holiday will be kicked off by the parade at noon. According to Brian Witt, editor of Emerald Reflections, a newsletter produced by the Shamrock Club, the event usually draws in between 30,000 and 35,000 people because of the variety of festivities.

According to Witt, the parade is the largest St. Patrick's Day celebration in the state and will include Irish dancers from three Irish dancing schools, marching bands, bagpipe players and color guard. The parade begins on Wisconsin Avenue and will end at the intersection of Water and Edison streets.

While marchers enjoy the entertainment and the opportunity to burn off calories, they can also take in a different view of the Milwaukee River. The river will be dyed green for the second year in a row in honor of the special event. Though the Milwaukee River will not be its usual color next Saturday, environmentalists can rest assured that the dye is safe and was approved by the Department of Natural Resources.

While the parade offers the perfect opportunity to get in some of the exercise many promised themselves at the new year, it also offers participants the chance to check out some of the local pubs, according to Ellen Winters, executive director of the Westown Association. But Winters said there are benefits to participating aside from drinking.

The parade "gives people the chance to celebrate the Irish heritage whether they're Irish or not," Winters said.

Witt agrees. So much so that the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin is making their St. Patrick's Day celebration an all day event to give people the opportunity to appreciate the Irish culture as well as the religious significance of St. Patrick.

Though the parade is only expected to last an hour and a half, the celebrations begin at 8:30 a.m. with a Mass at St. Patrick's Church, 723 S. 7th St. The Mass is to be led by Archbishop the Rev. Timothy Dolan and will end with a post-party at the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center, 2133 W. Wisconsin Ave.

According to Witt, the post-party will be "the largest St. Patrick's Day celebration in Wisconsin under one roof." The party will be divided up into four parlors — one being for children — and will feature entertainment such as Irish dancers and Irish bands including Blarney, the oldest Irish band in Wisconsin.

Though the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin has been sponsoring the parade for 38 years, the club actually was formed in 1960 and has become the largest Irish membership organization in the state. According to Witt, the group was formed with the help of the International Institute, the organization that hosts the Folk Fair.

After years of providing Irish dancers to the international event, some members of Milwaukee's Irish community decided to start an organization dedicated to celebrating their Irish heritage. Witt said the club evolved over the past 44 years and not only has branches all over the state, but also led the way for other Irish organizations to develop, such as Irish dance schools and the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center.

Despite the fact that many other Irish organizations now exist in Milwaukee, the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin has dedicated members and even elects an "Irishman of the Year." This year's recipient — Witt.

For more information about the St. Patrick's Day Parade, visit http://www.angelfire.com/wi/shamrockclubwisc or www.westown.org. Admission to the post-party is $5 for adults and $2 for children.

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