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Friday, March 21, 2014

Saint Paul’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebration—a history you might not expect


 Amidst a sea of shamrock hats, orange-and-green regalia, and Erin Go Bragh flags scattered through the historic streets of Lowertown Saint Paul, onlookers watched as waves of clans marched down 5th street this Saint Patrick’s Day. The celebration has always served as a way for Saint Paul to fly its Irish heritage and celebrate Irish roots in the city.

While our modern parade has been running uninterrupted for almost 50 years, the first Saint Patrick's parade dates back to 1851. Saint Paul, in fact, was founded by three Irish natives: Edward Phelan, John Hays and William Evans - soldiers discharged from service at the nearby Fort Snelling. The three founders made the first claim to what is now Dayton’s Bluff and Lowertown Saint Paul. 
In the early 1850s, members from the growing Irish and Irish-American community began publicly celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day until the then-Archbishop  John Ireland, in part due to a populist turn toward temperance, believed the parade to be too ‘immoral’ and ordered it stopped in 1902.
More than 60 years later, several community-minded Irish folks decided that the parade should return to our streets – and we’ve been happy to host  48 years of proud celebrations.
Saint Patrick's Day, 1978 - photo credit to MN Historical Society
Saint Patrick's Day, 1978 - photo credit to MN Historical Society

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