It’s time to bring out the shamrocks and deck ourselves out in emerald. St. Patrick’s Day is March 17 and the 30th anniversary of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is on March 16. The parade and the Irish Faire are sure to turn downtown Phoenix into one big green party.

Started in 1984 by Lorraine Flynn and 20 other Irish and Irish-Americans who felt that Phoenix needed its own parade to celebrate its Irish heritage, the parade has grown immensely these past 30 years.

With almost 100 participants, including Irish step dancers, bagpipers, dignitaries, and the famous horse of a different color (which is, of course, green), the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has become the third largest parade Arizona.

“It’s basically a day when we share with the Valley Irish culture,” said Mary Moriarty, operations manager at the Irish Cultural Center and vice president of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.

The theme of this year’s parade, “The Gathering 2013: Back to our roots and traditions,” is in conjunction with Ireland’s yearlong “The Gathering” project, which celebrates all things Irish and promotes those with Irish heritage to visit the Emerald Isle.

“The Irish government is trying to inspire places that have the Irish Diaspora to encourage them to visit Ireland,” Moriarty said.

The Irish Faire starts at 10 a.m. at Margaret Hance Park, adjacent to the Irish Cultural Center. It will feature food, Irish music, Irish dancers, crafts, an area for kids and, of course, libations for those old enough. The new McClelland Library, which is part of the Irish Cultural Center, will be featuring the famous “Fighting Irishmen” boxing exhibit, which is on display through May. There is a $10 fee for the general public and a $5 fee for seniors, students and children under 12 to view exhibit.

Admission to the fair is $10 for adults 13 and over, $8 for seniors and military, and free for children 12 and under. The parade is free to attend and begins at Third and Sheridan streets (south of Thomas Road) and moves south to McDowell Road.

Bob Smith, president and CEO of Alliance Beverage Distribution Company, will be the Grand Marshal and Moriarty and her husband, Jack, have been named the “Irish Persons of the Year,” a title the committee gives to those who they believe have done a lot for the Irish community over the years.

“I’m not a phenomenally showy type person but it is a fantastic honor that people, other members of the parade committee, felt that Jack and I were deserving of the title,” Moriarty said.

For more information on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, visit

For more information on the Irish Cultural Center, visit

• Brittany Stehmer is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is interning this semester for the AFN.

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