St. Patrick’s Day is five days away, but hundreds of spectators happily started celebrating Sunday with Portland’s annual parade.

Commercial Street was lined with smiling faces, lots of green and dogs – including five large Irish Wolfhounds that marched in the parade.

Among the festive outfits was one worn by 9-year-old Kate Reynolds of Portland. She had on shamrock pants, a green top, shamrock scarf, shamrock earrings and a shamrock hat with faux pearls.

The best part of St. Patrick’s Day, she said, is the food.

Kate watched the parade with friends and her mother, Karen Reynolds, whose family is Irish.

“I love the Irish music and dancing, and the community here,” Reynolds said.


Craig and Kate Ashman of Cape Elizabeth came with their daughters Molly, 9, and Eleanor, 11, and two dogs, Mildred and Bernie.

Eleanor acknowledged it was a challenge to see well wearing her shamrock glasses, but she wanted to be festive. Her sister, Molly, said she likes watching the people go by on the floats, and watching the high-stepping Stillson School of Irish dancers.

Portland’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade has been a staple for decades, except in 2020 and 2021 when the pandemic canceled the fun.

The parade attracts about 2,000 spectators, said Mike Freethy, president of the Irish American Club of Maine, which sponsors the event. It is the largest celebration of Irish and Irish American culture north of Boston.

Members of the Stillson School of Irish Dance perform on Commercial Street after the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Marching in this year’s parade were two lively bands complete with kilts and bagpipes – the Claddagh Mhor Pipe Band and the Dunlap Highland Band.

St. Patrick himself and Slugger from the Sea Dogs were also on hand. A dancing Guinness beer was there too, greeting the crowds, along with characters and superheroes such as the Ghostbusters, Captain America and Batman and Batgirl.


Some marchers carried flags from the counties and regions of Ireland and there was a Ukranian flag in support of that country’s war with Russia.

“We have more marching units than we had last year,” Freethy said, citing multiple social organizations and labor unions.

Others in the parade included Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce, agents from the U.S. Border Patrol, representatives from Irish restaurants Ri Ra’s and Bull Feeney’s, and members of the Portland Hurling Club and Portland Women’s Rugby Club.

Dignitaries included Westbrook Mayor Michael Foley, who was the grand marshal, and Consul General of Ireland Laoise Moore, which promotes Irish culture in New England.

Studies show that about 17 or 18% of Maine’s residents claim Irish heritage.

Siblings Liam Monks, 15, and Lydia Monks, 18, of Topsham, are Irish. Their mother is formerly of Ireland and has an Irish accent, Lydia said. That makes St. Patrick’s Day extra special for the family, which celebrates with foods like Shepherd’s pie and green mashed potatoes. “We go all out,” said Lydia, wearing Ireland’s colors of green and orange.


Maria Venne, 2, carries an Irish flag while marching with members of the Irish Heritage Center, during the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Commercial Street in Portland on Sunday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Liam wore a shamrock surrounding his face and a kelly green jacket. His sister wore an orange beard and a shamrock hat.

Katelyn Spalding of Cumberland Foreside said her family is also Irish. After the parade, they planned to enjoy an Irish dinner at her parent’s home.

Sunday’s parade started at the Portland Fish Pier and ended at Bell Buoy Park. It concluded with big, municipal trucks including a plow truck, a bucket truck, and lots of firetrucks with their sirens blaring, to the delights of children.

The after-parade party was held at Portland’s Maine Irish Heritage Center with an open house and tours, food inside the center and outside with food trucks, Freethy said, and of course, Irish music, story telling and socializing.

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