How does a human qualify for a St. Patrick’s Day parade?
It turns out there are many angles and they are either very loosely or not at all related to Irishness.
One way to waltz down spectator thronged thoroughfares is simply to be in possession of a canine. Several furry fellows slinked their way past the applauding masses in downtown Cleveland on Paddy’s Day — a big ‘well done’ to all those humans for being in the coveted realm of dog ownership!
Other than the Irish Wolfhounds, most dogs seemed to qualify as Irish by being forced to don some green attire by their cheery overlords. In fact, this was grounds enough for anyone or anything to be Irish: green beer, green voovoozalas (best known for ruining the 2010 World Cup), green candy floss, green sunglasses — you get the picture and it is green.
It was not only dogs and humans donned in green but, bizarrely, even a gang of alpacas. Add to that the fact someone decided to bring along a pet skunk and you can see that huge portions of a St. Patrick’s Day parade are simply based on flaunting domesticated beasts (to be fair, given what many humans occupy themselves with on the world wide web, this should come as no surprise whatsoever).
After animal ownership, the next most common way to be in the parade is to be a cop. I am given to understand that in the US’ serving and protecting racket, many members hail from Irish ancestors so in this way there is some connection to the old Emerald Isle. Besides, who is going to question a line of men in smart jackets carrying large silver shotguns — not me!
More dubious parade membership followed. For example, you could be part of The Elevator Union. That’s right, a union for people who work on elevators (how uplifting!). Actually, having once been trapped in a steel cocoon, I felt genuinely reassured seeing that such an obscure union existed. Men and women of The Elevator Union, I salute you!
You could also be in the parade for owning a monster truck for nothing screams ‘Eire’ like a truck on a truck.
Finally, you could be in the parade for riding in formation on dangerously large unicycles, or even just by getting a skateboard and cruising down the road.
In essence, this appeared to be a parading free-for-all, loosely linked around the central theme: green! However, in the potentially idealistic bubble from which I view American culture, it did feel that there was a hint of genuine endearment for the Irish. In England, with its inventive history of cruelty and derision towards the Irish, such endearment always seems lacking. I was happy to feel that the native Ohioans around me held Irishness in a more venerable esteem.
Saying that, let’s not get carried away praising the U.S.A too much here. Many at the parade enjoyed the cultural simplification of ‘Irish means drinking’ as copious revelry was on display immediately. In the parking lot, we came across a female human laid supine on the cool concrete. She was almost motionless except to occasionally strain her neck upwards suggesting she had ‘done a mischief’ to her back. We tentatively moved in to check on her and were relieved to discover she had, in fact, just done several prolonged mischiefs to her liver! Obviously, this alcohol-fueled hubris set a good tone for the day.
Ubiquitous alcoholism and questionable parade membership aside, it was nice for a bit of Irishness to have its day out in the sun. For some US natives, just as with the brits, this is and always will mean hurling green lager at themselves; for others it may, more sincerely, be a nod to distant relatives and for many, it simply meant leading a distant cousin of the wolf through an urban conurbation whilst waving. But, however St Paddy’s day was expressed, it was certainly ‘good craic’!