St. Patrick’s Day in Pittsburgh is huge. The celebrations and festivities are rich in tradition and fanfare. We put together a history of the biggest celebration of them all—the annual Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day parade.
There has been a parade celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Pittsburgh as early as 1869. Believe it or not, the parade was delayed because wagons were on the route unloading deliveries. Police didn’t ask the wagons to move because the business, Joseph Liebler, was so successful.
By 1871, there were accounts of a parade that was dampened (literally) by soaking rains. The weather was so bad that all the post-parade festivities were canceled. The parade that year featured a group called the “Confederated Irishmen of Lawrenceville.” They wore sashes that read “God Save Ireland.” That wasn’t the only year weather messed up parade plans. In 1903, a storm hit the region and the scheduled parade never happened. In 1956, the city ended up canceling the parade because of impending snowfall. In true Pittsburgh fashion though, a spontaneous parade broke out with nine inches of snow on the ground. The police chief at the time was upset at the marchers but he eventually gave in and marched down Fifth Ave. too! The blizzard of 1993 had the city experiencing its worst snow in over 100 years. Of course, the parade happened and many refer to that year as “The Great St. Patrick’s Day Blizzard.”
Pittsburgh’s parade route has changed off and on throughout the years. The routes in the beginning were hard to follow and often confusing. Also, many of the streets aren’t there anymore. In 1887, there were actually two parades–one by the Hibernians and another by a group called “The Board of Erin.” The board was units from surrounding counties. The 1888 parade description from the Pittsburgh Post was funny, as it read the streets were “devoid of mud.”
Interestingly enough, whenever St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Sunday there was never a parade. In fact, it’s hard to find a mention of St. Patrick’s Day at all. In 1904, the parade never happened due to an unknown reason.
In 1950, the mayor at the time, David L. Lawrence (sound familiar?) was featured prominently in the parade.
The parade has continued to grow over the years. The city now boasts one of the biggest St. Patty’s Day parades in the country.
This year, the world’s largest potato is going to make its St. Patrick’s Day debut in Pittsburgh for the parade. Parade organizers booked the potato for the parade. A six-ton potato sculpture will debut for the first time during the parade. Also, a tradition that has been happening for years, Miss Smiling Irish Eyes, has been named for 2018. Madeline Evans will be Miss Smiling Irish Eyes and her court will include Roison Sabol and Erin Sheedy.
Information compiled from PittsburghIrish.org.