The Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Cleveland
Tuesday, March 17th, was all about St. Patrick's Day and so off we went to the East Side Irish American Club that morning to take Lolly the Trolley to the annual parade down Superior Avenue. This was only our second year attending the parade but many of the people who rode Lolly have been going for most of their lives. A man named Charlie who was in his early 60's told us that he had only missed two parades since childhood and those were the years that he served in the U.S. armed forces. A woman named Pat who was in her early 80's wouldn't venture a guess as to how many parade that she had attended but she believed it to be quite a few. We sat with of Dr. B.J. Showman who told us that she had gone for 25 years without missing a parade until just a few years ago when she skipped a few but now she was determined to be a consistent parade goer again. Dr. Showman kindly shared her strawberries and blackberries with us and it turned out that she has known Ms. Margaret W. Wong for years. In fact she referred a friend of hers to Ms. Wong who was trying to immigrate to the United States from Turkey. She said that Ms. Wong provided excellent assistance and now her friend is a U.S. citizen, has a family, and is very successful. Just like last year, the driver of Lolly was Ms. Martha Logan Crosniak who joked that even though her last name might be Polish she is 100% Irish. Ms. Crosniak is a retired teacher who has conducting tours of Cleveland on Lolly for 24 years and doesn't know what she would do if it were not for Lolly the Trolley because she loves driving it so much. Ms. Crosniak turned our ride on Lolly into a tour with the group "Cherish the Ladies" playing in the background. Even though the sun was shining brightly, it was only in the low 40's outside so once at the parade we either sat on Lolly waiting for the parade to start or we walked briskly outside. Both of the floats for the East Side Irish American Club and the West Side Irish American Club dealt with Irish Involvement in the Civil War between the states and ours, from the East Side, was a depiction of the 69th NYS Irish Brigade. Needless to say, we saw a lot of people that we knew while waiting for the parade like Mayor Father Jackson, Father Bob Begin (the parade so-chair), Mr. Dan Hanson from Clevelandpeople.com, and Mr. Tom Scanlon who we talked to Saturday night at the Claddagh Ball. When it came time for the parade to start, Lolly was the first trolley in the parade. As we passed the Arcade on Superior we looked up and saw people crammed in the windows for several stories waving to us so we waved back. After the parade ended at 3rd and Superior due to construction, we headed back to the club but we all agreed that we had had a great time. Needless to say all of the people of downtown seemed to be out there and we think that the turnout was significantly better than last year. As Ms. Crosniak said, "it was 50 shades of green." On Tuesday night we decided to party some more so we drove out to the Ahern's Banquet Center in Avon Lake for the 2nd Annual Sober St. Patrick's Day Party which was a complete sell-out with probably 300 people at this family-friendly event. The principal organizer was Mr. Jack Kilroy who we met recently at a North Coast Chamber of Commerce luncheon and the Walks of Life Dinner at Windows on the River. The emcee for tonight's gathering was Mr. John M. Regan who is now retired but used to be the port director of Cleveland. Mr. Regan now lives in Georgia but came here to help with this event. He told us that the Cleveland area is about the fourth place to do a sober St. Patrick's Day celebration. Other places to do it before us were Belfast, Dublin and New York City. Our program booklet told us that the mission statement of Sober St. Patrick's Day is "to reclaim the true spirit of the day and to change the perception and experience of what St. Patrick's Day can be by providing family-friendly, alcohol free events celebrating the best use of Irish music, dance and comedy." During the course of the evening we were entertained by Mr. Patrick Kilroy on the bagpipes, Ms. Mary Agnes Kennedy singing songs and ballads, a band named Clash of the Tartans playing traditional Irish Music, and dancers from the Burke School of Irish Dance. We sat with a family headed by a young man named Brian who wanted a safe place to take his family on St. Patrick's Day and was very glad with what he found here. Another group that received recognition on this occasion was the RISE (Recovery In a Safe Environment) Foundation that "seeks to free Ireland from its unhealthy relationship with alcohol and other drugs."