New Orleans Nostalgia: Luck of the Irish

The tradition of the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade.
The Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Parade in 1984. Councilmember Mike Early and Criminal Court Judge James F. McKay are standing in front of 2036 Magazine St.|!!| which then housed Caronna’s Bar|!!| a live music venue for many years. After Caronna’s Bar|!!| the space was occupied by a local T-shirt shop and currently houses a jewelry store. Photo provided courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library.

When a neighborhood is called the Irish Channel, it’s no surprise that St. Patrick’s Day will be a very big deal. When that neighborhood is in New Orleans, you know the celebration will be like none other.

The Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Committee was formed in 1947 in the self-same area of New Orleans and will be celebrating their 65th year parading this March. After a pre-parade mass, the 1,400-plus members, wearing tuxedos and sporting commemorative medallions (first worn in ’78), embark on their parade. They carry with them “kissing canes” full of paper flowers, which are exchanged for kisses from paradegoers along the route.

Joining the parade is the Irish Channel Corner Club. Started in 1918 by seven Irish Channel residents, they are the second oldest walking club in New Orleans. They disbanded in ’32 because of the Depression but reformed in ’47 – after the end of World War II – with five local residents, including John “Bubby” Gallagher, whose father Edward was of one of the original seven. Easily identifiable in their Kelly green vests and jaunty hats, the marching members have been accompanied by The Paulin Brothers Brass Band since ’49.

While both groups are most visible during parades, they both are well-known for their charitable works, supporting area schools, churches and other groups and helping out neighbors in need.

Following the marchers are the floats, from which sail the traditional beads and throws, but also potatoes, onions, carrots and the highly prized cabbages. Another throw unique to the St. Patty’s parade is Irish Spring soap.
This year’s parade is scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Come catch your dinner and maybe a can of beer or two if the luck of the Irish is truly on your side.

Categories: Festivals, Festivals & Events, LL_Feature

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