While enjoying a beer with a few of his friends 43 years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, John Welsh and the crew started wondering why Utah didn’t have a St. Patrick’s Day parade.
A quick barroom decision was made, and moments later they marched down the street in honor of the holiday. The following year, Welsh, himself an Irish-American, formed The Hibernian Society, and an official and annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade became a reality in Salt Lake City. Today, practically everyone who enjoys a beer-drinking holiday participates in the festivities, especially owners and employees of Irish pubs.
Green beer is not only a must, it’s an expectation, along with other special beverages made just for the occasion at nearly every Irish pub in Salt Lake. “It’s the busiest day of the year,” said Nelson Korhel, manager of O’Shucks Irish pub. Along with bagpipers who will play in the morning and again in the afternoon, the bar is giving out souvenirs to the first 50 people who come. “We are also serving Irish Car Bombs and other drink and food specials,” he added.
Unique St. Patrick’s Day brews are available at numerous pubs including Squatters Pub, where Head Brewer Jason Stock will ensure there is plenty of McGreuh’s Dry Irish Stout to go around. Stock brews his coveted concoction once a year for St. Patrick’s Day. Employees at Squatters go all-out to “go green.” “We are the party,” said Maxwell Christen, public relations and marketing manager for Squatters. “We have a group marching in the parade. We are so excited to be celebrating another year. We have been participating in the parade for 30 years, ever since we opened.”
Perhaps the parade is the biggest overall celebration of the holiday, supposed to be happening this year on Saturday, March 14 at 10am but will be postponed to a later date due to COVID-19. Among bagpipers and other enthusiastic participants will be marching bands, dance groups, floats, antique automobiles and horse drawn carriages. Starting at the intersection of 500 East and 200 South, the parade continues on to State Street, and concludes with a party at the Gallivan Center, according to Parade Facilitator Meghan Gibson. Gibson, who is also The Hibernian Society president and daughter of John Welsh, explained “we celebrate Irish-Americans such as my father, as well as come together as a community because of the parade. We have close to 80 entries this year.”
In honor of St. Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade occurred on March 17, 1762 when Irish soldiers in the English military marched through New York City. Each year more than 100 St. Patrick’s Day parades take place across the United States. According to an internet search, there are 32.3 million U.S. residents with Irish ancestry—seven times the population of Ireland itself.
So, get ready, Salt Lake City, to eat corned beef and cabbage, drink green beer, and be a part of a time-honored tradition.