The Tucson St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival is About Giving Back
March 13, 2015
by Joshua Levine
More frequently than not, it seems that celebrating St. Patrick’s Day includes a simple and blatant agenda, which is to mindlessly consume as much alcohol as possible. And while there’s nothing inherently dishonorable about kicking back and cracking one open because a day on the calendar is marked as a holiday, it is an opportunity to bring people together for reasons more constructive than just that.
For John Murphy, president of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival Committee of Tucson, that opportunity is a mission.
“I’ve been involved since almost the beginning,” Murphy says of the committee, whose work and planning will culminate on Sunday, March 15 for this year’s parade and festival. “I started in 1990 and left ‘95 or ‘96. I was gone about 10 or so years and came back around five years ago — they just keep pulling you back in. I started by doing a task or two and then I got a task or two more, and next thing I know I’m president within two years. I rely heavily on my people but I got a little finger in everything.
“It’s our 28th year. Come rain or shine, we put this son of a gun on.”
The parade itself begins at 11 A.M. on Sunday at Stone Avenue and 16th St. and concludes at Downtown’s Armory Park at noon, while the festival runs from 10 A.M. until 5 P.M., also at Armory Park.
“Every year people wear green,” Murphy explains, his voice tinged with typical deadpan humor. “Every year people drink beer, every year people dance a jig, every year the Tucson community comes together and has a good time with each other. This is about fun and community and heart.
“We have local bands doing traditional music,” he continues. “This year we’re introducing Irish rock and roll to the festival and we believe it’ll be well-received. We have a band coming from Phoenix by the name of the Sullivans — they play Irish rock and roll. They have a good following in Arizona — not much of one in Tucson but we’re hoping to change that.”
In addition to musical entertainment, both the parade and festival are family-friendly events with a large and varied offering of fun for attendees of all ages, including a gaming area for children, vendors and various tables set up in Armory Park dedicated to Irish organizations and culture. Beloved former KVOA news anchor Tom McNamara will be the special-guest Grand Marshal at the event. And, of course, food and drink will be plentiful.
“People have come to expect certain things from us and we deliver them,” says Murphy. “There will be Irish beer and Irish food — Shamrock Farms is putting on a corned beef and cabbage booth — that’s going to be new this year.”
Every year, The St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival adheres to a different theme; “Peace, Love Shamrocks” belongs to 2015, and is explained further in Murphy’s eloquent “President’s Ballyhoo,” on the committee’s website.
“We’re an all-volunteer group and a charity organization,” he explains, echoing the sentiment in his Ballyhoo. “Nobody here gets paid. This is our gift to Tucson, the parade and festival. On a personal level — and I think this goes for everyone on the committee — I have a commitment to community service, to giving something back to the world and the community, and this is the form I’ve chosen. It’s a great group of people to work with, it’s a fun event to put on. So, I get to have fun with people I enjoy being with and give money to a charity each year. Our charity this year, as it was last year, is The Scholarship Fund for Children of Fallen Officers — money for the kids of Tucson police officers who have died.”
Admission is free for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival and for further details, see tucsonstpatricksday.com.