Island go bragh: ‘Marco Ireland’ on parade

Lance Shearer

Talk about springing forward. Marco Island celebrated St. Patrick’s Day six days ahead of the rest of the country on Sunday, with a parade down Bald Eagle Drive on the same day that clocks were set ahead an hour for Daylight Saving Time.

A message from the Island Dance Academy. The Sons and Daughters of Erin hosted the Marco Island St. Patrick's Day Parade on Bald Eagle Drive Sunday afternoon, with Hooley afterwards at Veterans Community Park.

Firetrucks, dignitaries, dance troupes and antique cars paraded up from the NCH Healthcare center to Elkcam Circle, making a left turn into Veterans’ Community Park for “hooley,” which seemed to involve drinking beer, Irish or otherwise, consuming edibles including corned beef, and perhaps checking out a couple of vendors’ booths.

Marco Island traditionally holds its St. Patrick’s Day parade early, one week ahead of the massive St. Paddy’s parade in Naples, thereby allowing bands and floats to march in both. This year, the parade was down to one marching band, from St. John Neumann Catholic High School, without the charter middle or Lely High School ensembles that marched last year.

There were three dance troupes performing, though, with young ladies from the Island Dance Academy, the Celtic Spirit School of Irish Dance up on their flatbed truck, and the Flanagan O’Hare School of Irish Dance high-stepping on the street. A contingent of Marco Riders on big Harleys came first after the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department’s tower truck, weaving back and forth across the road to give everyone a close look (the motorcycles, not the fire truck).

Speaking of weaving, the Araba Shrine Flintstones mini-cars used the full width of the street, encouraging spectators to step back onto the curb as they zoomed back and forth.

There was as much green along the sidelines of the parade as in the middle street, with some spectators going all in on the Irish hats, beads, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” T-shirts, and costumes, plus orange in the fake beards as well as the Irish flags. Pat Warrener put a green bow into the hair of Zoe, her shih tzu, but spared her the full suit of clothing in consideration of the day’s warmth.

Veteran Jack Patterson, a former artillery officer, said he stands for the United States flag but not the Irish, but the two came by simultaneously along with the banner of the Sons and Daughters of Erin, the parade organizing group.

Kretch’s restaurant put an outdoor kitchen out front, and offered takeout service to some paraders, handing out cups of beer from trays they carried out to the street. Grand Marshal Mike O’Regan and Mary Jo received a libation, and delivered a song in return.

As Sons and Daughters of Erin founder Kathleen Reynolds put it, serving up the Guinness in the park after the parade, “everybody’s Irish today.”