Irish on Parade

An Irish Turf Greenway: This month, Michigan Avenue turns into an annual parade in the color of spring


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THERE'S MORE TO MARCH 17 THAN SKIPPING WORK TO SLURP STOUT — FUN AS THAT CAN BE.

On the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, the 53rd annual St. Patrick’s Parade will see Michigan Avenue in Corktown awash in a sea of green.

The parade, sponsored by the United Irish Societies (UIS), an umbrella group of about 30 organizations, begins at 2 p.m. at Sixth and Michigan. It includes floats from Irish and other organizations, metro Detroit marching bands, bagpipe bands, and the Maid of Erin and her court. This year’s grand marshal is Mary Sheehy, an Irish immigrant from County Clare and a member of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. Before the parade is the 29th annual Corktown Race, which has a Kid Run and a 5K Run/Walk for adults.

A parade of Irish influence runs through metro Detroit history.

SOME EXAMPLES:

  • Former Detroit mayors of Irish heritage include John Patton (1858-1859), William C. Maybury (1897-1904), Frank Murphy (1930-1933), and Jerome Cavanagh (1962-1970).

  • Corktown is one of Detroit’s oldest surviving neighborhoods. Established in the 1830s, it gets its name from the large Irish population that lived there, coming primarily from County Cork.

  • The area now known as North Corktown was part of Corktown before I-75 bifurcated the neighborhood.

  • More than 500,000 metro Detroiters claim at least partial Irish heritage, U.S. Census figures show.

  • The decade of the 1840s saw the largest influx of Irish immigrants to Detroit, making the Irish the area’s largest ethnic group. So many came to Detroit that, by 1850, one in every seven residents had been born in Ireland.

  • Metro Detroit’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Dearborn in 1959.

  • Detroit’s oldest English-language Catholic church, Most Holy Trinity, was founded in 1834 in Corktown and catered to the Irish who didn’t want to remain at the French-language Ste. Anne Church.

 photographs courtesy of paul hitzelberger, paulhitzphotography.com

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