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Annapolis may host 1st St. Patrick’s Day parade

ANNAPOLIS — Annapolis has had its share of Fourth of July, Christmas, homecoming and Memorial Day parades.

So it may sound like malarkey to say the city has never celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a march — despite a history of residents sloshing down its streets with green beers.

“Everyone I’ve talked to said there hasn’t been one,” John O’Leary said. “Just some ad hoc ones. Some people have gotten chased off the streets by the police.”

With any luck of the Irish, O’Leary, a resident and founder of the Warrior Events nonprofit, will start a new Annapolis tradition. He’s organizing what is being hailed as the first Annapolis St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It will be at 1 p.m. March 10.

Why March 10 instead of St. Patrick’s Day, which is March 17?

Downtown shop owners said drawing crowds to Annapolis won’t be a problem for the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Sunday. It’s the prior weekend that might benefit from some extra motivation for visitors.

Sean O’Neill, the Annapolis Business Association president, said events like this give residents a reason to come downtown when business in the shopping district is otherwise slow. He believes the parade has a good chance for success in Annapolis, given its robust Irish contingent.

The parade will include floats, Irish dancers and other spectacle. It will begin at Westgate Circle and disperse at City Dock, the same route used for the Memorial Day parade.

John O’Neill, president of the Annapolis Ancient Order of the Hibernians, said 30 or more of the club’s members will participate, wearing sashes with colors from the Irish flag. The Hibernians are an Irish Catholic fraternity centered on charitable work.

“We’ve always gone to Baltimore in the past for their parade, but we’d prefer to stay in the city,” he said. He hopes the event becomes a tradition.

Michelle LeFurge, the city’s special events coordinator, said no food or retail street vendors will hawk their goods at the parade, making this a less controversial event than some others that have sought to use downtown as their venue.

Some merchants in the Historic District have complained that street vendors pose unfair competition for brick-and-mortar businesses.

O’Leary has recruited about 30 participants. With the entrant’s fee set at $100, he needs 35 participating groups to cover his costs. Although he’s not trying to turn a profit, he’ll owe city officials about $3,500 for police overtime and use of parking.

To drum up support, O’Leary has started a Facebook group: Annapolis St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The parade is not a city-sponsored event but must go through an approval process. The City Council will likely vote on whether to give it the green light Monday.

LeFurge doesn’t expect any hiccups.

“It’s a great idea — St. Patrick’s Day lasting for weeks,” she said.