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It may be somewhat smaller than Marco’s wall-to-wall Christmas street parade, but this one is a little more interactive.

For starters, ‘most everyone wears green – whether they’re in the parade or on the sidelines. And, when everything shifts down to Mackle Park and the “hooley” party, most everyone becomes Irish for a few hours in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

Staged traditionally two weeks early, the parade wound its way down Bald Eagle Drive from the Marco Healthcare Center, and VIP Grand Marshal this year was Jack Patterson, a prolific civic and organization volunteer.

“It was special because his daughter came from Arizona to see the parade,” said organizer Kathleen Reynolds. She said another highlight was seeing Rev. Tim Navin being driven along in a classic Duesenberg, with Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala.

She also paid tribute to dancers from the Celtic Spirit School of Irish Dance for their performances, and particularly instructors Claire and Catherine Gorman.

Money brought in from the hooley, as well as earlier fundraisers organized by the Sons and Daughters of Erin, pays for the annual parade, Reynolds said. Expenses include paying for police presence, fire-rescue participation, band performers and participants like the Shriners in their "Flintmobiles."

For Islanders, this celebration comes around all over again March 17 when many Marco restaurants have St. Patrick’s Day parties to coincide with the actual date on which St. Patrick, patron Saint of the Emerald Isle, died.

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