ShamROCKin’ for 55 Years!

St. Patrick’s Day, that magical day when the world dons its emerald cloak and dances a merry jig. The air is infused with the scent of clover, and the sun paints rainbows across the sky. But here’s the twist: it’s not just the Irish who revel in this kaleidoscope of merriment. 

Why in the world do people here in Colorado put on such a big parade on St. Patrick’s Day?  Sure, there’s the magical allure of the Emerald Isle but that’s far across the wide and wild sea, isn’t it? The reason, ’tis said, is as easy as humming a tune. Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day! At our lovely little gem of a school located in the heart of the neighborhood, the spirit builds to a flurry of excitement this time of year. Green Gables Elementary, the Home of the Leprechauns, has participated in Denver’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade since the opening of the school. As second grade teacher Kristalina Rowley explained, “The Leprechaun theme is believed to originate from the school’s grand opening on March 17th, 1969.  We have been a part of the Denver St. Patrick’s Day Parade since the school began.” Principal Jenn Withee recalls from her own school days, “I still remember as a former Green Gables Leprechaun the excitement, joy, and pride that I experienced being part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I am grateful our community still gets to experience the magic!” 

With all the Leprechauns about, the Irish (even the just-one-day ones) wear green on St. Patrick’s Day because that makes you invisible to Leprechauns. If they see you they’ll pinch you. Wearing green is a sensible precaution, aye?  As for the big parade, the story goes back to 1889, when a Denver Irish heritage organization put on the first big parade. According to the Denver St. Partick’s Day Parade Association, the parade consisted of “two divisions of several Irish groups including the Ancient Order of Hibernians with some groups numbering close to one hundred.”1 Over the years the tradition grew and faded several times until the early 1960s , when a visit by the Lord Mayor of Dublin sparked the thought of reviving the old tradition. 

Now, run entirely by volunteers, the Denver St. Patrick’s Day parade is the largest in Colorado. In addition to our Green Gables Leprechauns there are hundreds of other colorful floats, marchers, stagecoaches, clowns, and bands playing music of all kinds. There are plenty of activities and attractions for children and adults alike.

We asked Mrs. Rowley about the float for this year, and she told us that each year the students form a planning committee that originates in their parade club. They meet after school for 5-6 weeks leading up to the parade. This group of students helps with designing the float and creating decorations. It’s not just that small group, though. Everyone gets involved. She explained, “Each year, we find an activity for all staff and students in our building to be able to take part in creating some part of our float. In the past we’ve done activities such as puzzle pieces, flags from around the world, individual shamrocks, and pictures of all staff and students. This year in alignment with the parade theme, ‘We Are One,’ all staff and students are tracing and designing a handprint that will be included in our float. Each class in our school also votes on 3 songs they would like to include in our music playlist as well. We truly try to include the entire school population as this is a school project that represents us all!”

Mindy Hayes, a staff member and parent, said, “This is one of the most special moments each year to really bring all of the Green Gables community together and share what makes us so amazing! It’s so incredible to see staff, students, families, and the community pull this off every year, and each year ends up being better than the prior year!” Ms Rowley added that this is the first year that preschool families will be invited, and she expects to have 50 to 75 students actually riding and marching in the parade. With families and staff members going along to support and cheer, the Green Gables community will number up to about 150 people enjoying the fun.

As fifth-grader Eli Borja said, “I love the parade because of the music and getting to be with my friends and teachers!” His classmate Brooke Pererson summed it up, telling us, “A lot of the school attends the parade. It’s fun and everyone has a good time!”

As you can see, planning for the parade takes planning, detailed work, and lots of cooperation. Here are some pictures of oiur Green Gables Elementary kids at work this week, preparing for the parade on Saturday, March 16, 2024!

Want to go and join the festivities? The Parade starts at 9:30 am.  Close-in parking places often fill up an hour before the parade starts. Information: Parade Route and Parking.

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  1. Denver St Patrick’s Day Parade Committee | History

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