With a history that predates the statehood of California, the Irish community has long held a prominent place in the Bay Area.
Now in its 160th year, the San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival celebrates Saturday with more than 100 floats, a plethora of pipers and dancers and thousands of participants.
Click on the photo to the right for more St. Patrick’s Day photos and information.
The parade has significant cultural cachet for the 1 million Irish descendants in the Bay Area, and has previously drawn crowds of over 100,000. This year’s grand marshals are husband and wife Mike and Maureen Moriarty; both have promoted Irish sport and culture in San Francisco for a long time.
Diarmuid Philpott, retired San Francisco deputy chief police officer and president of the United Irish Societies of San Francisco, has worked on organizing St. Patrick’s Day activities for a number of years, and has watched them grow into a prominent annual event.
“It’s evolved over the years,” Philpott says. “At one time it was just a strict parade and nothing else, but now we have the festival afterwards, across from City Hall. The main thing is to project Irish culture and pride in being American.”
Many Irish immigrants were pioneers in contributing to what we now know as San Francisco. O’Farrell Street is named after Jasper O’Farrell, The City’s first surveyor and the engineering mind behind Market Street. Peter Donahue provided San Francisco with its first gaslit street lamps, and was founder of the San Francisco Gas Company, a precursor to Pacific Gas & Electric.
Philpott hopes the parade will be a chance to celebrate and expand upon this rich heritage in an inclusive way.
“The parade shows the cohesiveness of the Irish community, and it shows that the culture that was brought from Ireland over 150 years ago still continues today” Philpott says. “But it shows that we’re part of a larger community, because we invite everyone to be a part.”
In addition to the parade and festival, the eighth annual Crossroads Irish-American Festival runs through March 25, featuring an array of Irish cultural events, including literary readings, lectures and world-class music concerts. Acclaimed Celtic harpist Patrick Ball will perform on the closing night of the festival at St. Patrick’s Church.
IF YOU GO
Where: Second and Market streets to Civic Center Plaza at Grove, Larkin, Polk and McAllister streets, San Francisco
When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday
Contact: www.sresproductions.com; www.sfstpatricksdayparade.com
The eighth annual Crossroads Irish American Festival continues through March 25 at various locations in The City. A few selected offerings follow; for the complete list, visit www.irishamericancrossroads.org.
Poetry reading: 7 p.m. Free. Award-winning Bay Area poets Gillian Conoley, Kathleen Lynch, Gwynn O’Gara and Katherine Hastings read in celebration of Irish heritage. [BookShop West Portal, 80 West Portal Ave., S.F., (415) 564-8080]
Walking tour: 11 a.m. Free. Guide Peter O’Driscoll and historian Lawrence H. Shoup walk and talk about the Irish labor history in San Francisco. [Meet at Hills Plaza Entrance Steps, 75 Folsom St. at The Embarcadero, S.F.]
Patrick Ball: 7 p.m. $18-$20. The world-renowned Celtic harpist weaves together classic Irish music and storytelling traditions. [Sanctuary, St. Patrick’s Church, 756 Mission St., S.F., www.brownpapertickets.com]
Samuel Brannan (1819-1889)
The businessman, an American of Irish descent, established the “California Star” newspaper and was The City’s first millionaire.
John White Geary (1819-1873)
The attorney and politician, an American of Irish descent, was the first mayor of San Francisco.
Frank McCoppin (1834-1897)
The first Irish-born mayor of San Francisco was The City’s 12th mayor.
Jasper O’Farrell (1817–1875)
The first San Francisco surveyor designed the promenade that is now Market Street.
Michael M. O’Shaughnessy (1864-1934)
San Francisco’s city engineer was instrumental in developing the Hetch Hetchy water system.