St. Patrick’s Day revelers lined Commercial Street as a homegrown assemblage of bagpipe bands and step dancers made its way along the Portland waterfront Sunday afternoon.
Wearing silly green hats and waving shamrocks, parade-goers turned out despite chilly weather and a stiff breeze to honor the patron saint of Ireland a day early. St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, is both a cultural and religious observance. It celebrates Irish heritage and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It’s also a day for people of Irish heritage to gather with their families.
“I’ve celebrated it all my life,” said Jane Grabler of South Portland.
She said the day brings back memories of her father, Robert “Pat” Wallingford of South Portland, who died 10 days after St. Patrick’s Day in 1971 in a construction accident at the Cumberland County Civic Center site.
“He always wore a green hat when he drove his bulldozer on St. Patrick’s Day,” Grabler said.
The parade was sponsored by the American Irish Club of Maine. It was followed by an open house at the Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray St.
Grabler was accompanied by her adult twin sons, John and George Grabler, who led Bubba, her 4-year-old Newfoundland, through the crowd.
Sporting a green and white hat and an oversized sparkling tie, Daniel Zanovello of Cape Elizabeth said the parade is a must-attend event, though he is Italian.
“My wife’s half-Irish,” he said of Aimee Zanovello.
The Holmes family of Cumberland – Jeff and Katie and their children Madeline, 16 months, Braeden, 3, and Jackson, 5 – stayed toasty under a layer of green blankets. They stationed themselves on lawn chairs at the curb about midway down the parade route.
“It’s Katie’s favorite holiday,” Jeff Holmes said.
More St. Patrick’s events are scheduled for Monday, including a 5:30 a.m. St. Patrick’s Day Plunge at East End Beach in Portland and free traditional Irish music at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell at 6 p.m.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: [email protected]