History

The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Washington, D.C. was held in 1971 and traveled along Massachusetts Avenue from Dupont Circle to the statue of Robert Emmet. Since then, this annual affair has grown from what was little more than a leisurely stroll by a few hundred participants to what is now being called “The Nation’s St. Patrick’s Parade.” In 1974, the Constitution Avenue route was established and the march became a full-scale Parade with Marching Bands, Pipe Bands, our Nation’s Military, Police, and Fire Departments as well as Floats, Novelty Groups and those marchers wearing green. Trophies are now awarded in a number of categories to participants. Traditionally, the parade is not a forum for political issues. Elected officials march, but those running for office are not allowed to use the Parade as a campaign site. The Parade is an Irish community endeavor that was started by the Irish American Club and is now held in cooperation with the National Capital Park Service. The President of the Irish American Club maintains a place on the Board of Directors of the Parade Committee. The Parade has grown both in size and prestige. Through the work of the Parade Committee, a group of 40 or more dedicated Washingtonians, the two-and-a-half hour spectacular event is created. Their work begins in September before the March Parade. In September invitations go out to bands and marching groups and to sponsors and floats and other groups. In January, the Committee’s work begins in earnest. the Parade’s Magazine, considered to be one of the most professional parade magazines in the nation, is formulated and articles are solicited from prominent writers reflecting the chosen theme for that year. The Committee holds six to eight fundraisers before the parade. Every one of the local pubs sponsors a parade party. These events are almost as much fun as the parade itself and are open to the public. Irish musicians, dancers and singers get everyone in the mood for Parade Day. Choosing the Grand Marshal is an important part of the advance planning for the Parade. The men and women chosen to lead this event must be considered carefully. In 1986, retiring Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill honored Washington by being Grand Marshal in what he called, “the last greatest honor of my Washington career.” Included in our distinguished list of Grand Marshals are Helen Hayes – the First Lady of the American Theater, and John Hume – leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party. Also a tradition starting with the very first parades is the Gael of the Year, an honor given to an outstanding person in the Washington DC area who has made a significant contribution to the community. Some of the past Gaels include Paul Berry – TV News co-anchor and Humanitarian, Father Eugene Riordan – Educator and Missionary, and our recently deceased Committee Member, Parade Photographer, and friend of the Irish Community, Pat “Irish Eyes” Cady. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and truly this Parade is for everyone. It is a family day. A day when people come together to enjoy the sharing of culture, the celebration of being Irish or almost Irish and to enjoy a well-planned, well-run event that is worth the trip to Constitution Avenue to set the tone of spring.

Past Parade Grand Marshals and Gaels
Year Grand Marshal Gael Theme
2016 John Garvey
2016 Parade Program
Daniel F. Sullivan
2016 Parade Awards
Remember, Reflect, Reimagine
2015 John McInerney & Jack O’Brien
2015 Parade Program
Theresa Cullinane
2015 Parade Awards
Irish Heart in the Nation’s Capital
2014 Msgr Sal Criscuolo
2014 Parade Program
Cecelia Farley
2014 Parade Awards
Selfless Service
2013 Admiral Mike Mullen (Ret).
2013 Parade Program
John Joseph (JJ) Kelly
2013 Parade Awards
Service to the Stars& Stripes
2012 Cathal Armstrong Chef & Restaurateur
2012 Parade Program
Michael F. Curtin Jr. Feed The Soul – Nourish the Palate
2011 Marilee Fitzgerald Defense Education Activity
2011 Parade Program
Sister Seton Cuneen A Heritage of Education & Community Service
2010 Frank Saul, Founder of Chevy Chase Bank, and his wife Tricia Saul
2010 Parade Program
Robert J. Hickey, Jr, Retired FBI and founder of the local chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann
2010 Parade Awards
The Irish Who Built America
2009 Norah O’Donnell, MSNBC Chief Washington Correspondent
2009 Parade Program
Danny Coleman
2009 Parade Awards
Irish Tradition of Word and Song
2008 Mark Touhey III, Former Chair, District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Commission
2008 Parade Program
Annie Burns
2008 Parade Awards
A History of Strength
2007 Nancy McKelvey, Chief Nurse of the American Red Cross
2007 Parade Program
Alice McDermott
2007 Parade Awards
Volunteers Weave Communities Together
2006 Susan O’Malley, President, Washington Sports & Entertainment
2006 Parade Program
Walter Durkin
2006 Parade Awards
Good Sports in the Community
2005 Paul Xavier Kelly, Former Marine Corps Commandant
2005 Parade Program
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
2005 Parade Awards
Remembering the Sacrifices of the Greatest Generation
2004 John Walsh, Host, America’s Most Wanted
2004 Parade Program
Barbara Harrison
2004 Parade Awards
Making a Difference
2003 Chris McCarron, Hall of Fame Jockey
2003 Parade Magazine
Joyce & John Flynn
2003 Parade Awards
On Track to the Winners Circle
2002 Those Who Serve, Tribute to local heroes and victims of the 9-11 tragedy
2002 Parade Program
No Gael Selected
2002 Parade Awards
Those Who Serve, Tribute to local heroes and victims of the 9-11 Tragedy
2001 Tom Dolan, Olympic Gold Medalist
2001 Parade Program
Alice Murphy Johnson
2001 Parade Awards
30 Years of Irish Excellence and a Celebration of Olympic Spirit
2000 Roma Downey, Film & Television actress (Touched by an Angel)
2000 Parade Program
Frank J. Herbert Peace and Unity in the New Millenium
1999 Denis Mulcahy, Founder, Project Children
1999 Parade Program
John Cosgrove Let There be Peace for Irish Children
1998 Hal Roach, Ireland’s International Humorist
1998 Parade Program
Patrick William Cady
1998 Parade Awards
Irish American Youth. The Future of the Nation
1997 Thomas R. Donohue, Labor Relations Organizer
1997 Parade Program
Paul L. Berry
1997 Parade Awards
Irish Workers Who Build American
1996 Capt. Scott O’Grady, USAF, U.S. Air Force Pilot (shot down, June 1995)
1996 Parade Program
Father Eugene E. Riordan
1996 Parade Awards
Freedom Cherished
1995 John Hume, Leader, Social Democratic and Labour Party
1995 Parade Program
Father John Adams
1995 Parade Awards
Peace-Progress-Prosperity
1994 Mark Russell, Political Satirist
1994 Parade Magazine
Matt Hannon Irish Wit and Wisdom
1993 Mary Higgins Clark, America’s premier suspense writer Carol Wheeler
1992 John J. Barry, President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
1992 Parade Magazine
Bruce Morrison, Former U.S. Congressman,
Author of “Morrison VISA”
Irish Immigration to the United States
1991 U.S. Armed Forces, one member from each Service
1991 Parade Magazine
William (Howie) McClennan, former President of the International Association of Fire Fighters
1991 Parade Awards>
The Contribution of the Irish to the United States Military
1990 John “The Diesel” Riggins, Running Back, NFL Washington Redskins
1990 Parade Magazine
Susan Kelly Long, Benefactor of Irish-American Community and Revitalizer of Irish-American Club
1990 Parade Awards
1989 John J. Sweeney, President, Service Employees International
1989 Parade Magazine

Manus “Jack” Fish, Retired Regional Director, National Capital and Revitalizer of Irish-American Club
1989 Parade Awards
1988 Carmencita Hederman, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland
1988 Parade Magazine

Mickey Brennan, President, D.C. Friends of Ireland and Labor Leader
1988 Parade Awards
Salute to Dublin
1987 Helen Hayes, First Lady of American Theater
1987 Parade Magazine
Brendan Sheridan, Artist and Musician
1987 Parade Awards
Irish and The Arts
1986 Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill, JR. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
1986 Parade Magazine
Monsignor R. Joseph Dooley, Chaplain, Metropolitan Police and Fire Departments
1986 Parade Awards
Irish Contribution in America
1985 Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Founder, Special Olympics Program
1985 Parade Magazine
Jane Callahan Gude, Chairperson, “Ireland’s Children” Ireland Her History through her Music and Culture
1984 Cyril Count McCormack, Son of Irish Tenor, John McCormack
1984 Parade Magazine
Dr. Coilin Owens, Founder Washington Chapter, Gaelic League; Professor, George Mason University Ireland – America: Myth, Legend, Reality
1983 Frances T. Shea, Read Admiral USN
1983 Parade Magazine
CDR James Ruland, Irish American activities, Founder Brendan Cup Committee Ireland America’s Foundation
1982 Rev. Gilbert V. Harke OP, Founder, Speech and Drama Department Catholic University Cornelius (Connie) J. Coakley, Founder, Seton Centers, Irish-American activities
1981 Samuel W. Bogley, Lt. Governor of the State of Maryland Charles T. Lucey, Editor, Author of two books on Ireland
1980 James P. Gleason County Executive, Montgomery County, MD Harry & Margaret Schrecengost, Founders, “Blackthorn Stick”, Irish Dance Group
1979 Walter F. McArdle, President, McArdle Printing Company Margaret Coakley, a founder of the Irish American Club
1978 Maurice Cullinane, Former chief, Metropolitan Policy Department Peggy Hannon O’Neill, Founder of the first Irish Dance School in Washington
1977 George Meany, President, AFL-CIO Sean Coakley, Past President Irish American Club
1976 Patrick J. Hayes, Director Washington Performing Arts Society No Gael Selected
1975 William T. Hannan, Irish community activities Charles Carey & John A.K. Donovan, founders of the Potomac Valley Irish WolfHound Club
1974 William T. Hannan, Chairman, Bishop’s Relief Fund