3rd generation Alaskan Irish Redmond clan march in St. Patrick's Day Parade.
While Soldotna’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade may not be the only one in Alaska, it certainly is the largest and longest consecutively running event of its kind in the Greatland. An internet search did turn up a reference to a parade in Dillingham, Alaska but no details could be found and there certainly was not any parading of the Green to compare in Anchorage, Fairbanks or Juneau. Now in its 17th year the Soldotna St. Patrick’s Day parade was the inspiration of local Irish entrepreneur Mike Sweeney and the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, “Our first parade the fire trucks were on call and had to leave right after we got started so it was basically me, one old fire truck, and couple other friends with pick-ups and we didn’t go very far, but we knew it had potential to grow as big as it is today and I believe it’s going to grow even more to where maybe we’ll close the whole highway rather than just my side of the Spur,” said Sweeney.
Under sunny skies hundreds lined the Spur Highway for Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.
One might think that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade tradition originated in Ireland, but actually the first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in the good old U. S. of A. “United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.” Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Alaska, Japan, Singapore, and Russia. Most of the party and drinking traditions are also Irish American and have only recently been adopted in the Emerald Isle.
Nancy Mitchell and the Good Neighbor Bear prepare for the beginning of the 17th St. Patrick's Day Parade.
In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism and showcase Ireland to the rest of the world. Last year, close to one million people took part in Ireland 's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions, and fireworks shows.
Sponsored by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce to promote local business, Executive Director Michelle Glaves says, “It’s about the wearing and spending of the green in our local community and of course there is nothing like a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner which this year was put on at the Soldotna Senior Center and they sure cooked up some delicious food, it was amazing.”
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