St. Patrick's Day Parade is 'like Christmas in March' Despite gray skies, city was a sea o' green

March 18, 1996|By JoAnna Daemmrich and Lisa Respers | JoAnna Daemmrich and Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Green-eyed sisters Claire Kratz and Peggy Shenton waved from their traditional corner. Mike O'Shea served up Guinness stout and witticisms. And the governor of Maryland donned a shamrock colored sweater.

Braving the chilly, dreary afternoon, tens of thousands of people filled the streets of downtown Baltimore yesterday to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in true style: With a big parade and displays of Irish culture.

Green was the color of the day, and everyone from Gov. Parris N. Glendening to schoolchildren in marching bands wore some shade of it. The keening of bagpipes echoed along the parade route, where young and old watched, decked out in heavy sweaters, leprechaun hats and shamrock stickers.

As a band began to play his favorite tune the Notre Dame fight song Donald Plott cheered and clapped loudly. Nothing could have kept him and his family home yesterday, he said.

"We missed it last year, and we were determined to come," Mr. Plott said. Emilia Ciocchi, who has faithfully attended the St. Patrick's Day parade for years, said simply, "We're Irish we're here."

From the corner at Charles and Mulberry streets, where they traditionally watch the parade, sisters Mrs. Kratz, 36, and Mrs. Shenton, 31, said that to miss the parade would be "sacrilegious."

"In our family, the only way you could miss it is if you're sick," Mrs. Kratz said with a grin.

Some 4,000 people played in bands, danced on floats and waved from vintage cars as the 40th annual St. Patrick's Day parade wound its way from the Washington Monument down Charles Street and across Pratt Street to Market Place. The cool weather was ideal for marching, said Jeff Ford, a parade organizer.

St. Patrick's Day long has been a day of politics as well as a celebration of Irish heritage. In keeping with custom, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke lined up in front of the marching bands to wave at the crowd.

Mr. O'Shea, an owner of the Irish pub on Charles Street that bears his name, called out the names of passing bands and said he considered the day "like Christmas in March."

"It's a display of our Irish culture. People who have grown up in the community here, all come together," he said. "It's not just drinking beer."

But when asked whether his pub was likely to run out of beer, Mr. O'Shea said with a smile, "That would be like Baskin-Robbins running out of vanilla ice cream. It's not going to happen."

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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