Cincinnati’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade has never been about precision marching. Oh, there are pipe & drum corps that step quite sharply and high school band directors who try to get their charges to all put their left foot forward at the same time but the general atmosphere has typically been one of slightly sloppy fun rather than of practiced drills. Now, however, the parade itself seems to be out of step with most of the country.
Last year Cincinnati made discrimination illegal at any event receiving financial support from the city but it also stopped the practice of absorbing much of the cost (police, cleanup, etc.) associated with the parade. One result was that the local chapter of the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) had their application to participate in the parade denied. There were claims that the denial was due to the group failing to follow rules when they marched in the previous year’s parade but the violations were never exactly specified and not many are buying into the claim. A direct result of the application’s rejection was the boycotting of the parade by several officials and politicians who were scheduled to be part of it.
This year the Cincinnati St. Patrick Parade Committee denied no applications and no politicians boycotted the parade. Reverting to what they had done sometime in the past, the committee accepted no applications and the parade was filled by invitation only. Other cities weren’t so clever. Organizers of the Boston parade turned down an application from a gay rights group named MassEquality and that led to a boycott by the city’s mayor and a number of other politicians. It also prompted Boston Beer Company, which operates brewing facilities in Cincinnati, to withdraw sponsorship for the parade. For similar reasons, Heineken dropped its sponsorship of New York City’s parade which was also boycotted by the mayor. Cincinnati’s preemptive “you can’t boycott ’cause you’re not invited” move did keep protesters at Saturday’s parade to a quiet and well behaved few. It also caused at least one parade goer to think about the whole Saint Patrick’s Day thing in a different way than ever before.
I first likened the recent events to some sort of bait and switch but soon realized it’s not like that at all. The parade organizers did not create some bit of revelry then take it away. In Cincinnati, the parade has always officially been a “religious procession”. It was the attendees who created the “everybody’s Irish” and, without actually saying it, “everybody’s Catholic” lore. I’m undecided but maybe, if the Catholics simply want their parade back, I’ll let them have it. I’ve a year to decide.
I grabbed a couple of overhead shots from atop the same garage as last year. The second picture is of the Pedal Wagon, a human powered arrangement of mobile bar stools. It can be rented by anyone wanting to put the “crawl” back in pub crawl.
The reviewing stand was near the end of the parade route and that’s where I caught the Delorean Club of Ohio. I counted fifteen cars this year. There are other Saint Patrick’s Day parades in Ohio, including one in a city named Dublin, but Cincinnati is where the state’s population of these Irish built cars come to show off. That has to be an endorsement of some sort.
The parade was Saturday. I was back downtown on Sunday for the American Heart Association Heart Mini consisting of a 1/2 marathon and several other events. One of those other events was a 10 K walk which I participated in. From near Fountain Square, we walked east on 5th Street continued on Columbia Parkway, then turned around and walked back.
10K is about six miles which put the turnaround about three miles east of the heart of the city. A 5K walk started at the same time so things were pretty crowded leaving downtown. 5K walkers were definitly in the majority and things thinned out quite a bit at their turnaround about a mile and a half out. I started near the middle but was very near the back at the finish. I typically walk around 3 MPH and that’s about what I did Sunday finishing in slightly over two hours. Most people obviously moved a little faster than that.