PHOTOS: Marco Island celebrates St. Patrick's Day early with parade, festival

Irish Princesses Kathy Bigley, Marie Kennedy, and Kathleen Reynolds. The Sons and Daughters of Erin held their St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 10, and marched right into a fair at Veterans' Community Park.

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Irish Princesses Kathy Bigley, Marie Kennedy, and Kathleen Reynolds. The Sons and Daughters of Erin held their St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 10, and marched right into a fair at Veterans' Community Park.

— Once again, Marco got a jump on the rest of the Irish-American world, holding the annual parade one week early. The Sons and Daughters of Erin’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade marched up Bald Eagle Drive on Sunday, and headed right into Veterans’ Community Park, for some entertainment, merchandise, and perhaps a traditional Irish carbonated beverage.

Dale and Donna Rod got a jump on the rest of the parade, cruising the route on their hog 15 minutes ahead of the other entrants. When the balance of the parade arrived, Grand Marshal Father Tim Navin of San Marco Catholic Church waved from an open convertible, escorted by Fire Chief Mike Murphy.

Jerry Gibson, who as City Council chairman last year rode on the big fire engine, watched at the intersection of Elkcam Circle, although that did give him the opportunity to bring along Fiore, his pony-sized Cane Corso dog. Nancy Moriarty and Pam O’Sullivan, sitting along the street bedecked in green, looking as Irish as their names.

Emily McWhirter, age eight, sat on the curb, taking in the parade, while a group of boys made a contact sport out of scooping up the maximum number of pieces of candy thrown by passing paraders, such as the Ladies of the Essex. Keith Pershing rode in his gleaming 1934 Ford convertible, leading the way for the Lely High School marching band. As the band approached the park, they were playing the “Notre Dame Fight Song,” theme of the Fighting Irish.

Along with the band, the crowd favorite had to be the Celtic Spirit School of Irish Dance, who performed the classic Irish dance steps featured in “Riverdance.” As the young ladies stepped, the sound system on their flatbed truck played “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” Hilary Noyes kicked up her boots with abandon, and proclaimed “it’s great to be here on Marco Ireland.”

A tartan-clad piper marched with great dignity, highlighting what Ireland shares with their fellow Celts in Scotland. There were a few more convertibles with green-clad occupants waving, and dignitaries including County Commissioner Donna Fiala and Supervisor of Elections Jennifer Edwards, and then it was done.

“This was the shortest parade ever,” said Dave Walsh, himself wearing enough green to be a St. Pat’s parade, along with wife Susie and Ed and Cindy Crane.

Sons and Daughters of Erin “president, organizer, chief cook and bottle washer” Kathleen Reynolds helped in pouring the beer from the truck with taps for Harps, Guinness and Smithwick ale built right into the side, a must-have accessory for your next tailgate party. Steve Stefanides, also instrumental in putting the events together, laughed about “a Greek boy, organizing an Irish parade paid for with an Italian spaghetti dinner.”

O’Donoghue’s Bar & Grill brought the Irish to the food offerings, with hot corned beef rollups, which regular customers recognized from the restaurant. Under the dining tent, Deb Misener Jones sang Irish songs, threw in a little yodeling, and, to introduce a number featuring cowbells, posed a riddle to the crowd:

“Why did cows start wearing cowbells? Because their horns didn’t work.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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