by Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma City’s 31st annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, one of the most popular annual festive marches through the heart of our town, highlights the upcoming holiday weekend.
Peter Pembroke will serve as Grand Marshal for the 2013 parade, slated for Saturday, March 16.
The traditional route for the parade is restored this year – a straight march down Sheridan Avenue from N. Walker on the west to the far end of Bricktown on the east. Dozens of units featured in the parade will gather on the west end of downtown beginning Saturday morning, formally organizing around noon to prepare for parade order.
Stepoff for the parade is at 1 p.m., Saturday.
The parade traditionally attracts thousands of spectactors who flock to downtown, where they cheer for Junior ROTC units from many area public schools, clowns, Shiners in tiny motor cars and on cycles, dogs and other domesticated animals (some with fur dyed green), Irish or Celtic dancers, medieval reenactors, and a variety of color guards.
Each year, Saint Patrick himself, portrayed by a local man, makes an appearance as leader of the parade, dressed in the green robes of the founding Bishop of Ireland. St. Patrick brought Christianity to “Erin” – the Gaelic name of the island.
Pembroke, of Oklahoma City, is presently Grand Knight for the Oklahoma Council No. 1038, Knights of Columbus. The Knights, who participate in the parade each year, are the world’s largest fraternal organization. The group stresses the principles of faith, charity, fraternity and patriotism.
Members of the Fourth Degree, the patriotic order, will be among the participants in this year’s parade. Pembroke is an officer in the Fourth Degree Chief Justice Kane Assembly, and is treasurer on the board of directors for the Santa Fe Family Life Center.
Pembroke’s family came to Ireland in the Eleventh Century Norman invasion. His lineal ancester is Richard de Clare, the Second Earl of Pembroke. His parents (Joseph and Monica) and his siblings (Joseph, Mary and Mark) were born on the Emerald Isle, in Dublin County. The family came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Peter was born and raised. In 1992, Joseph Pembroke was grand marshal of the Milwaukee St. Patrick’s Day parade.
In addition to his Wisconsin roots, Peter has lived in Ireland, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. While residing in the nation’s capital he met Oklahoman Sandy Brown, daughter of Harry and Ione Brown, another Irish family.
St. Patrick’s weekend begins Friday evening with the Grand Marshal Celebration, a fundraiser honoring Pembroke. The event begins with a 6 p.m. Reception at 50 Penn Place (1900 N.W. Expressway) in the Belle Isle Brewery banquet space on the third floor, and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 a person – with sponsorships available running from $500 to $10,000.
RSVP’s are required for the dinner, by visiting www.okcstpatsparade.com, or by calling 405-751-8181. This year’s event benefits Operation Homefront, supporting Oklahoma families, service members and wounded warriors.
After Saturday’s parade, Bricktown entertainment venues remain open well into the night to accommodate the celebrations of all those who are Irish – or honorary Irish for the day.