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Shamrockin’ it: coordinating the St. Patrick’s Warm-Up Parade

An inside look into the months of planning that go into Brookside's parade, which was held March 18.

The+Growney+family+rides+on+their+family+float+at+the+Brookside+St.+Patrick%27s+Day+Parade.+photo+courtesy+of+Megan+Lewer
The Growney family rides on their family float at the Brookside St. Patrick's Day Parade. photo courtesy of Megan Lewer

The Growney family rides on their family float at the Brookside St. Patrick's Day Parade. photo courtesy of Megan Lewer

The Growney family rides on their family float at the Brookside St. Patrick's Day Parade. photo courtesy of Megan Lewer

by Julia Kerrigan and Paige Powell

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story and video by Julia Kerrigan

The first day of the new year people are still recovering from Christmas, Facebook is filled with resolution posts and the last thing on everyone’s mind is a holiday in the middle of March. Everyone except for The Main Event president, Jennifer Gamble, who begins planning the Brookside St. Patrick’s Day Parade. An early start on this is vital with the process involving applying for a parade permit, having insurance, working with the KCPD to choose a traffic plan, publicizing and choosing a lineup. Despite the long list of tasks, Gamble is unfazed.

“It’s not really that hectic of a process,” Gamble said. “The day itself is a little hectic.”

As many as 120 applicants will sign up to be in the parade, and 100 are chosen. This is the first year a $30 charge has been added for entries, to offset the costs for security. Once the applications are all in, it’s time to choose which will make it into the lineup.

“We’re looking for entertainment value, that they do focus on St. Patrick as the theme of it, and we like to have the local Brookside schools and churches and families in the parade,” Gamble said.

Entries range from businesses using the day to promote themselves to families who make a tradition of it. One of these families is the “Growney Clan,” led by Ed Growney. Their float features a 9 foot statue of St. Patrick made of papier-mâché, sporting a cotton ball beard, old church vestments, and a shepherds crook made by Growney himself. The statue sits on a castle, symbolizing Old Castle, where Growney’s ancestors lived under the name “O’Growney.” For the 364 days it isn’t in use, Growney keeps his St. Patrick in his garage, which ultimately serves a greater purpose.

photos by Paige Powell

The Growney family rides on their family float at the Brookside St. Patrick's Day Parade. photo courtesy of Megan Lewer

“If you open the garage door, you see this big giant staring at you, so we thought, ‘Well, if crooks break in there they’ll probably be shocked into running,’” Growney said, laughing.

Leading the parade are the dancers from O’Riada Manning Academy of Irish Dance, who begin their parade practices in early January. Students from the seven different levels are gathered in order to learn the routine, become familiar with the structure of the parade and prepare for their events. O’Riada Manning has had dancers in the parade for over 20 years now. Coach Joseph Manning affectionately describes it as an “Irish reunion”.

His sister, administrator Grace Manning, handles all the paperwork and sends it to Gamble. After participating in the parade for so many years, that part is a breeze. The dancers have a much harder task, requiring they start rehearsing new choreography early Jan. Irish dancer Chaela Gilman has been doing this every winter since she joined O’Riada Manning five years ago.

“You have to practice the routine a lot at your house to make sure you can do it at any spot with anybody,” Gilman said. “Then when you do it in the parade you have to be focused the whole time.”

This year, the parade was held on March 18, a week later than planned due to the weather. This year’s theme is “Shamrockin’ it.”

“I encourage everyone to come out,” Gamble said. “It’s always a fun time.”

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Shamrockin’ it: coordinating the St. Patrick’s Warm-Up Parade