Riding in the St. Patrick’s Irish Channel Parade

Established in 1947, the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club‘s Irish Channel Parade features over-1400 walkers, mostly wearing black suits and/or kilts with green accessories, who swap kisses (mostly on the cheek) for flowers and trinkets. Also included are bagpipers, the green-afroed women of Alter Egos, and the wigged, blue-stripe-painted, kilt-wearing men of the Braveheart Warriors Marching Club. But the parade is best known for the dozens of double-decker floats throwing everything from beads to cabbages – and this year I was one of the people throwing!

When you marry someone, you marry their family – and the family I married into has a float in the Irish Channel Parade. Usually, that means we get a big bag of throws tossed our way, but this year I was invited to join the riders. Better yet, I was treated! Many people don’t realize that our city’s parades are paid for by the riders – from floats, throws, bands, and dancers, to  barricades, police and clean-up. We contributed some boxes of Lucky Charms snack bars and all the green beads we’d caught during Carnival, but everything else was covered – so I made some handmade “special throws.”

Muses has their glittered shoes, Iris has their decorated sunglasses, Zulu has painted coconuts, and Tucks has bedazzled plungers – but people don’t usually throw handmade items at the Irish parade. I decided on 70 painted and glittered wooden horseshoes saying “Good Luck” and placed in green organza bags. I put the year and my initials on the back. Some recipients were very excited to get something unique and I’ve already found 2 photos of people sharing my throws among their favorites.

Many of the parade’s popular throws are edible including cabbages, carrots, potatoes and ramen noodles – ingredients for stew – as well as Moon Pies, candy, pickles, green jello shots, and single-portions of Lucky Charms. Bars of Irish Spring soap are also a big hit.

I’m used to dancing in the parades (with my Pussyfooters sisters), but this is only my second time riding – and the first time was totally unique. I rode with Quentin Tarantino in the Monarch float of Orpheus in 2014. It was amazing, but this time felt special in a different way. The Irish Channel parade celebrates the Irish immigrants who settled into the dock area between the French Quarter and the Garden District, an area now called the Irish Channel, during the 1830’s construction of the New Basin Canal. Some of my in-laws’ families were part of that neighborhood and one grandfather helped build many buildings/bars/etc. throughout the city that we still enjoy today.

When I dance in the parades, my favorite part is the exchange of energy you get with the crowd as they cheer you on or smile because you’re bringing them joy. Throwing plushy toys and St. Pat’s socks also brings smiles. I’m thrilled to say that MANY people thanked me, whether they received a shamrock-printed scarf or a single strand of green beads. I thank riders when I’m catching and it was wonderful being on the receiving end.

The weather was insanely gorgeous – 80 and sunny, and I ran out of throws at exactly the right time. Whew. Pretty much a perfect day. The only bad part of being in a parade is that you don’t really get to see the actual parade. Enjoy my view from float 13 and if you’d like to see what the rest of the parade looks like, check out last year’s post. I also missed seeing my friends who ride or walk, but it was great being able to throw things to friends and family along the route. I love watching parades, but it’s a privilege and pleasure to be part of this city’s culture in such a fun way.

After passing lots of yard and porch parties, I was delighted to come home to 3 generations of in-laws sitting in lawn chairs at our own impromptu porch party. Kids sucked on lollypops as I served myself corned beef stew and cole slaw and joined people swapping stories. Especially after the past few years of COVID, I take none of these magical moments for granted.

For more history of the parade and its organizers, click here.


Filed under Carnival, Culture, decorations and costumes, free events and lagniappe, history, Mardi Gras 2023, parade

6 responses to “Riding in the St. Patrick’s Irish Channel Parade

  1. Ed Blazek

    That would be my favorite parade to watch.
    You looked adorable, Laura. Plus the reddish hair goes nicely with the green outfit.
    How is your throwing arm doing?

  2. Ron G

    Thank you for sharing your experience and photos. It was a fun filled day for all.

  3. Patricia Ellen Deming

    These pictures are amazing! I’m really taken with the throws. This is my Monday morning delight. Great storytelling. I love the ending too, any happy excuse for family gatherings in the yard or on the porch is the best.

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