PORTSMOUTH – If you didn’t know that St. Patrick’s Day was this weekend – you may have last week when two dozen members of the 7 Nation Celtic Club gathered in Port City Pub to make the final preparations for the festivities.
Smiles, laughs, and plenty of Guinness were on display as the club members racously discussed the weekly agenda.
“All of this energy is because of COVID,” exclaimed Rose Anne Rosier. “We all missed each other during the pandemic. That’s what is giving us so much enthusiasm.”
“We are all friends here,” added Gail Valentine.
Sixteen years ago, the early members of the 7 Nation’s Celtic Club planned the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Portsmouth. Now, it has become a large scale event culminating with an evening of music on Friday, March 17th by Jason Burton, the Rose Mountain Ramblers, and Ian Jones and the Tiperrary Three.
Then on Saturday, March 18th, the parade will kick off at 11AM followed by the Shamrock Bagpipers, Cirque D’Art Celtic Dancers, Amhrain, Mad Maudlin, and the Rose Mountain Ramblers.
“This really isn’t a celebration of St. Patrick,” explained Jill McDonald. “This is a day to celebrate friendships, Spring, and community.”
“And drinking!” laughed John McHenry.
St. Patrick’s Day falls in mid-March, and usually, the weather is less than ideal for a parade. Yet, the 7 Nation’s Celtic Club says that is just part of the experience.
“One of the highlights are people coming together on a gloomy day, packing Port City, and hearing the bagpipes begin to play,” said McDonald. “It’s a really magical experience.”
This year’s grand marshalls of the parade are Mark and Virgie Hunter, the founders of the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund, a non-profit organization that provides meals to 1,300 children each weekend. The couple started it in memory of their late son.
The 7 Nation Celtic Club urges the community to come out, rine or shine, and to bring a chair and a bag for children to collect candy.
“I’m still amazed people haven’t heard about this parade,” said Chip Maillet. “Last year, I was in my Guinness jersey, beads, and a funny hat and stopped in Kroger. People looked at me like I was from outer space. One guy event asked why I was dressed up…So, we are really trying to spread the word about it. People should come see what its all about.”