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A Day To Dance

Proudly Decked Out In Green, St. Patrick's Day Revelers Sing, Cheer, Break Into Irish Jigs

By PETER MARTEKA, Courant Staff Writer

March 16, 2008

Sister Patty Moriarty has been marching in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade since she was 8 and a member of an Irish step dancing troupe.

On Saturday, she was marching again, dressed in green, this time representing Rocky Hill as a grand marshal. Along the route, she marched elegantly and waved congenially to the crowd. That is until she reached the reviewing stand and kicked off her shoes and broke into an Irish step dance.

"I didn't plan on dancing, I just went for it. It all came flooding back to me," she said shortly after the 2˝-hour parade ended. "It's an honor to march in the parade. It's a day to honor the Irish and all of our accomplishments. The crowd was very good despite the cool weather and rain this morning."

Maybe it was a bit of the luck of the Irish that stopped the rain early in the morning. Although it was cloudy, cool and damp, the streets along the parade route were dry as Hartford's 37th annual parade stepped off at 11 a.m. on Capitol Avenue near the state Capitol.

Paul Hinckley of South Windsor was decked out with a large green hat and fake leprechaun beard as he cheered on the bands, bagpipers and marchers from area police and fire departments.

"It doesn't matter what the weather is, we're always warm inside," he said, noting a person walking by with a mug with the words "Irish whiskey makes me frisky." "The parade is a lot of fun with the Irish bands and the bagpipes and the green on everyone. It's just a day to celebrate everything Irish."

And the parade had a little bit of everything. There were about a half-dozen marching bands, including youngsters from area high schools and adults from Connecticut Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps. There were bagpipers from St. Patrick's Pipe Band of Glastonbury. There were Irish step dancers. Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, and Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez joined the more than 3,000 marchers.

There were memorable floats, such as one with members of the Ironworkers Local 15 of Hartford who walked on 30-foot-high steel beams shouting, "Bringing America back one beam at a time!" There were marchers from the Cora J. Belden Library in Rocky Hill who broke into Irish dances while pushing book carts. There were members of the Whalers Booster Club carrying signs like "Call me Ishmael. Bring back the whale."

Parade grand marshal Pat Keenan beamed with pride as he watched all the participants march past the reviewing stand near the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at Bushnell Park. Keenan has marched in each of the parades, many as a firefighter with the Hartford Fire Department.

"It's a great year to be proud of being Irish," said Keenan, a retired firefighter and East Hartford resident. "This was a wonderful parade; there's peace in Ireland and the southern Ireland economy is the best in Europe. The crowds were tremendous."

Thousands lined the parade route as marchers went down Capitol Avenue, took a left on Main Street, a left on Asylum Street, a left on Ford Street and ended by the arch.

"The Irish are a proud people," said Ian Wilson of Rocky Hill. "We take pride in our culture. There's always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

Even when it's cloudy.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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