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Rolly: Don’t get your Irish up — the St. Pat’s Parade will still poke some fun at Utah

First Published      Last Updated Mar 17 2017 01:02 am

MacNamara's Band won't be in Saturday's St. Patrick's Day Parade, but that hardly means satire will be missing from the frolicking march.

The annual downtown Salt Lake City procession, which celebrates Catholic culture in Mormon Utah, tends to be a tad playful and make fun of the state's dominant culture and traditional establishments.

This year, the parade takes a dig at the political climate. The theme is "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes in America," spun off from the old Gaelic toast "Céad Míle Fáilte" meaning "one hundred thousand welcomes."

Parade participants (81 this year) are encouraged to reflect on their immigrant ancestors and their contributions to the United States.




Hibernian Society of Utah spokeswoman Meghan Gibson said the theme is no coincidence, coming at a time when the Trump administration wants to bar immigrants and refugees from some Muslim-majority nations.

Further driving that point home: The grand marshal this year is an immigrant.

Oscar Solis, the new bishop of Salt Lake City's Catholic diocese, is a Filipino-American. He also will celebrate a Philippine St. Patrick's Day Mass in Salt Lake City on Friday night at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.

In addition, Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and a human rights advocate, will speak Friday at a sustainability summit at Weber State University in Ogden. Robinson, a harsh critic of President Donald Trump, will be the honored guest of a group of Irish Americans at a dinner in Salt Lake City on Friday, but she won't be able to attend the parade Saturday.

Robinson has referred to Trump's so-called Muslim ban "un-American" and has said the U.S. president is "a bully and we must stand up to bullies."

The parade honors the Irish icon St. Patrick with a mixture of jest and family traditions. It also boasts bands, bagpipes, dog-breeding groups, first responders and civic officials.

The MacNamara's Band float was a perennial favorite because it concocted new ways to poke fun at politicians and others, while loudspeakers blared the Bing Crosby song "MacNamara's Band."

One of the members, who owns a sign shop, brought a large mannequin, which changed identities from parade to parade. One year, it appeared as Mikhail Gorbachev, with the former Russian leader's prominent birthmark shaped as Ireland. In the mid-1990s, the then-embattled Utah Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz (now Enid Michelsen) mannequin made the cover of The New York Times. One year, it was Mitt Romney.

Band co-founder Matt Ivers said the members got too busy with jobs and families, so last year was the first time the parade went on without the group.

The St. Patrick's Day Parade faced a challenge several years ago when Salt Lake City imposed hefty fees to pay for security and traffic control. That led to some controversy because the gay-themed Pride Parade was also levied a large fee while the Mormon pioneer-centered Days of '47 Parade got a pass.

Critics wondered why the gays and Catholics were forced to fork over money while the Mormons were not. A police representative said the two parades that were charged were held on weekends so officers earned overtime. The Days of '47 Parade usually took place on a weekday, albeit a state holiday.

The Hibernian Society's Richard O'Connor said the fee has come down significantly since then and parade officials have an "excellent" relationship with the city.

Perhaps a bit of mischief is more easily tolerated in left-leaning Salt Lake City, which is why parade entrant Squatters and Wasatch Brewery can get away with a wink at Utah's newly proposed 0.05-limit DUI law, naming their float "One Hundred Thousand Beers."

prolly@sltrib.com

 

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