St. Patrick's parade brings out Irish and friends

Crowd gathers to honor heritage, real or adopted

March 15, 2010|By Nick Madigan |

Never mind the advancing years and that pesky wheelchair - Agnes May was not about to miss the party.

"I made my children bring me," May, who will be 87 next month, said Sunday as the annual parade in honor of St. Patrick rolled by her sidewalk perch a couple of blocks south of Baltimore's Washington Monument. "It makes me feel good to hear this music. I feel I'm part of the parade."

A few feet away, a rambunctious succession of pipe-and-drum bands, dancers and cheerleaders bounded by, followed by the usual assortment of elected officials and representatives of august Celtic organizations such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Emerald Isle Club and the Potomac Valley Irish Wolfhounds - the latter making use of all four legs, of course.

On such occasions, it is customary for people with even a glancing connection to Ireland to proclaim it vehemently, as though that verdant isle were always the nearest and dearest place to the heart.

"I was married to an Irishman," said May, whose ancestry is German. "And my grandfather was Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy, and my nephew is Michael Patrick May, and he's in the parade with the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. He came over and hugged me."

As she proudly listed the names of her kin, May seemed to be suggesting that you can't get much more Irish than that.

Nearby, a 40-year-old fellow in running gear, a number pinned to his shirt, had just completed the Shamrock 5K, a race held in conjunction with the St. Patrick parade. But with a name like John Zeigenfuse, he couldn't legitimately claim a connection to Ireland. Or could he?

"Well, I've got David Kelly's name on my chest," he said, referring to a friend, one of four brothers who run the Kelly & Associates Insurance Group, a sponsor of the race. "David gave me his number for the day. That's my Irish connection."

Looking around at the parade crowd, Zeigenfuse - who finished 123rd in the race, among a field of 4,500 - said it was good to watch people celebrate their ancestry.

"I don't know how many people here are Irish, but they're certainly getting a taste of it," he said. "I'm all in favor of that, but not necessarily the Mardi Gras aspect."

Then, after thinking about it for a moment, he added, "Although I did have a few beers at the finish line."

Another parade-watcher who might have seemed not of the Celtic persuasion was Leslie Luksik, a third-grade teacher at Resurrection-St. Paul School in Ellicott City. But her last name comes from her Austrian-American husband, whom she married after moving to the U.S. 18 years ago from her native town - Limerick, Ireland.

Luksik, who was waiting for her 10-year-old daughter, Bridget, to pass by as part of a troupe from the McHale School of Irish Dance, said she long ago got used to watching traditions from the old country being displayed in the New World, especially around St. Patrick's Day.

"I love it - it's always fun," she said. "Everyone can be Irish for a day, right? As long as you don't go overboard."

A true son of Ireland, Mick O'Shea, the former owner of the Charles Street pub that still bears his name, was manning a reviewing stand outside the bar. His wife, Nancy Gunther, was not at his side.

"My wife always goes away for a week right about now," O'Shea said, chuckling. "She's a little German, and she's had it up to here with this Irish stuff."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.