Knoxville Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in Style

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

It’s interesting: Knoxville has a tremendous Irish heritage. According to a recent book, Knoxville: Holidays and Festivals, written by Jack Neely and published by the Knoxville History Project, the group held an important place in local leadership: ” . . . at least three of the first seven members of Knoxville’s first Board of Aldermen in 1816,” were Irish. He states the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade of record was held in 1869.

The Irish had arrived in Knoxville in large numbers in the 1840s during the potato famine, helping build the railroads and eventually settling their own part of town, “Irish Town,” located along Fifth Avenue and Magnolia. Patrick Sullivan was an Irishman who built the famous saloon in 1887 which is now home to Lonesome Dove. Another Irishman, Martin Condon, became mayor.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was built in 1855 largely to provide a place of worship for the Irish immigrants. The parade continued to be a Knoxville until the early 1900s and, eventually Irish Town ceased to be an identifiable community. Jack notes in his book that, “In 1949, newspaper columnist Lucy Templeton interviewed widow Kate Leahy Ammons. She lived on what’s now the 200 block of Magnolia Avenue, and was believed to be the last resident of Irish Town.”

Fast forward somewhere around a hundred years from the last St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Knoxville’s version of the event returned last year. Continuing this year, it is in its second year in modern history, but it’s important to note that this is a Knoxville tradition – albeit suspended for decades – that goes back about 160 years.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

With that context, Knoxville held its St. Patrick’s Day Parade this past Saturday with a mix of past and present. The parade was heavy on local politicians running for various county, state and national positions. I decided to skip those in my photographs because, among other reasons, inevitably, I would have gotten good photographs of some and not of others. It didn’t really connect to the parade, anyway. I made one exception for a former president who fits the parade theme perfectly.

My favorite theme that ran through the parade was the families who were represented, some with four generations and each with an Irish heritage. It gives the parade a feeling of authenticity. Of course, amid the wash of green from one end of Gay Street to the other, we had St. Patrick,  himself, walking in the parade.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

Catholic Charities had a large presence, as did some other Catholic groups, which seemed fitting. A large number of men wore their kilts proudly and there were bagpipes enough to satisfy the biggest fan. The largest group of bagpipes were also accompanied by a small contingent of drums, and I’ve made clear numerous times how strongly I feel about drums in a parade: they make it.

The crowds were strong and many wore the green. I’ve never quite understood about the holiday that, “everyone is Irish.” We don’t all claim to be a part of the other various groups who have days, parades or events. But it was all in good fun and, as the green beer flowed on Market Square the fun increased at least to some point in the night.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

Simultaneous events were held on Market Square and in Krutch Park, with vendors and children’s activities. I heard a traditional Irish band from Nashville on Krutch Park and some traditional performers took the Market Square stage before yielding at the end of the night to a cover band.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebrations, Gay Street, Market Square and Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2018

This, as you might expect, is only a portion of the photographs I took. I’ll post the remainder later on the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page.

Comments

  1. Alan(and Jack), Thanks for reminding me of Lucy Templeton. I bought much of the library from her estate about 20 years ago, and I still stumble across her books in our stock from time to time. It was a lovely collection. She was a prolific annotater and kept most of her correspondence, and best of all, she was a very eclectic reader.

  2. Nancy Mott says:

    Thank you for these gorgeous pictures! Next best thing to being there. Sure lifted my spirits.

  3. It was a great day overall with the parade, the festivals and the beautiful weather. There were a lot of politicians but I really could have done without the Mustang Club. The cars were fine, but the drivers doing the burnouts and engine revving were really obnoxious. We had to run our dog back inside and let a mother with a scared baby into the vestibule of our building because of all the noise and exhaust. I know that some people were cheering them on but it was really really loud.

  4. John Brynda says:

    Thanks, Alan. Sorry to have missed it, it looked like a beautiful day to be downtown. In the past I looked everywhere in town for an authentic corned beef and cabbage dinner, with some green beer to chase it. Nada. The closest we got was the dear departed Irish Times. Glad some smart people have discovered the holiday as an opportunity to celebrate an ethnic heritage AND make some money along the way.

  5. The radio/tv vans did not play IRISH music.

  6. Yes, I agree too many politicians in parade, Not enough bands. The radio/tv vans did not play music, just current songs. It was a fun day!

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.