Saint Patrick’s Day Parade


Ashlynn Konold, Writer

Whether it is cold or warm, snowy or sunny, every year it’s the parade: the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade full of green, trumpets, and sirens. The Parade itself starts right next to Union Station and continues left onto 17th street towards Blake. It takes three-and-a-half to five hours depending on the parade’s staffing of volunteers and other organizations. There’s a huge variety of people in the parade, which is mainly Irish-led, with Irish dancers, different Irish clans in Colorado, and a ton of people supporting Saint Patrick.


Since the time I was little, there has been a parade every year that my family and I have gone to, starting when I was 5 until now as an 18 year-old dragging my poor old parents along for the ride. Not only is the parade extremely fun, interactive, and just a great thing to do in the estranged weather of the month of March, but I have so many sentimental attachments to the parade itself. First of all, my family and I are very Irish – my mother’s side of the family comes from the Touhey family/clan, and my father’s side comes from Ireland and Scotland. I’ve also had family in the parade itself, making the whole situation more fun as I saw them go down the route every year. While I was very young and the parade was probably more fun for me, as I was a kid who was having candy thrown at her, it has been always something my family has done. We’ve invited other members of the family, friends, and others over the years, but on the Saturday before Saint Patrick’s Day every year, we will be downtown freezing our butts off. It’s something that, no matter if its 60 degrees and sunny or 20 and snowing, we always go and its something that bonds us every year. As Saint Patrick’s Day is strangely also my father’s “birthday”, we always throw a big party afterwards where we bring the things we got from the parade, celebrating our heritage and another year gone by. There are a few years where I remember going with my cousin and trading what we got in the car on the way home. The parade has, however, been around longer and there is a rich history in the parade itself.

How do you begin to tell the story of Denver’s finest community event for the past 58 years?  Many argue that the parade has become the single largest gathering of Colorado residents every year in one place, where everyone sets aside their own heritage to become Irish for a day. Many people are under the misconception that the parade is organized and presented by the City of Denver every year.  The parade is actually organized and driven by a group of volunteers formed 58 years ago, known as the Denver St Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, Inc. in 1986. The committee is a charitable organization with each and every one of its committed volunteers.  Each member has a deep love for the Irish culture and enjoys sharing that sense of pride with the entire Denver community with year-round efforts, culminating with the parade day event.

Before we begin with the parade’s start in the 60s, we should recap the history of St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Denver. A St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Denver actually dates back to 1889, when Denver held its very first St Patrick’s Day Parade.  As was the tradition at the time, Division 1 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians kicked off the celebrations with a Grand Ball the night before the parade.  It was held at the then Special Hall at the Denver Chamber of Commerce and was lit entirely by gas lamps.  The Rocky Mountain News covered the Grand Ball as well as the parade and reported the Grand Ball was “the most prominent and pleasing social event in the city” with “hundreds of couples dancing the night away.” The parade began the next morning at 9:15 and was led by Grand Marshal Frank McGuire. Actual numbers were not recorded, but the parade itself consisted of two divisions of several Irish groups including the Ancient Order of Hibernians, with some groups numbering close to one hundred. The parade finished in time for all to attend high mass at St Elisabeth’s Church. Parades in Denver continued from 1889 through 1921 with the same route: starting at Fourteen Street and Lawrence, down Fourteenth Street to Colfax Avenue, to South Fourteenth Street over to Broadway, with a trip in front of the Capitol and eventually working itself back to Fourteenth and Larimer Streets.  In 1902, the Ancient Order of Hibernians held their national convention in July and utilized all of their funds for the convention (where over 3,000 were in attendance).  The parade was canceled that year for purely economic reasons, but a large, well-attended ball at the Denver Coliseum had a thirty piece orchestra with a planned set of over 24 dances.  From 1907 until 1920 the combination of the parade and the Ball were the largest social events of the City of Denver and surrounding regions.