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Does Janesville need a St. Patrick's Day parade?

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Greg Peck
March 17, 2014

I apparently don't have any Irish heritage. My paternal grandmother came from the Calkins and Muzzy families, and  Dad tells me his grandmother, Annie Calkins, was born in Scotland's Sterling Castle.

Still, on a day like this, isn't there a little Irish in all of us?

My wife's maiden name was Keegan, making her part Irish. We might well be celebrating her Irish heritage today, but Cheryl is a bit under the weather.

Still, I was listening to WCLO this morning, and Tim Beggs and his fellow announcers were discussing St. Patrick's Day parades when the idea came up—why doesn't Janesville have one? After all, this year Janesville will have its second Irish Fest. Just don't look for the festivities today. The Irish-related activities around here today will largely involve people donning green and drinking a Guinness or green beer at a bar such as O'Riley and Conway's Irish Pub downtown. If you're out celebrating today, please drink responsibly, and assign a designated driver.

Janesville's second Irish Fest will be in October, just like last year's event. Promoters and supporters created a miniature version of the Emerald Isle, along with a long list of events and activities, in 2013. The event was overdue. After all, plenty of prominent Irish names have been movers and shakers in Janesville for generations. Consider the Ryans, the Cullens, the Fitzgeralds, the Kennedys, the McDonalds, the Sheridans and others. More than 13 percent of Janesville residents are of Irish heritage—the largest percentage among major Wisconsin cities, according to zipatlas.com.

Janesville's first Irish Fest, centered around concerts by Gaelic Storm, went over well enough that organizers are planning for this fall's fest.

Unfortunately, I wasn't around for the first Irish Fest; Cheryl and I already had plans to visit New England last October. In 2007 we thoroughly enjoyed a trip to Ireland, however, and I hope we can soak in some of this year's Janesville Irish Fest.

Beloit used to have a St. Patrick's Day Parade, but the Rock County Chapter of the Shamrock Club went defunct, and with it went the annual parade on the Friday before St. Patrick's Day.

Madison, however, had its 17th annual parade around the Capitol Square on Sunday. Hundreds of people turned out despite the chilly weather.

Given this all this effort going into an October festival to celebrate Janesville's vast Irish history and heritage, is a St. Patrick's Day parade the next step for our community?

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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