March 3, 2008

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The meaning of St. Patrick’s Day

The Kerrs enjoy the parade

Wappingers Falls - To most people, St. Patrick’s Day is just a reason to break out the food coloring and have some green beer, or serve corned beef and cabbage for dinner, but for some families it means much more.

“Growing up in Belfast, this is not the kind of holiday you would see today,” said Northern Ireland native and Dutchess County resident Jared McVicker during the 13th Annual Dutchess County St. Patrick’s Day Parade held Saturday in Wappingers Falls.

“We would get up early, wash our face, comb our hair, get on our best clothes, put a Shamrock on our collar, and go to Mass and come home.  That was St. Patrick’s Day, but things have changed over the years, and this is now a celebration for everybody, Irish and non-Irish to get out celebrate with us our patron saint.”

McVicker is the cousin of Poughkeepsie resident Kevin Kerr, and brother, John.  Their mother Patsy brought them and their other two siblings to the United States in the early 1970s to escape the violence in Northern Ireland.

“Any chance we get to celebrate, we take advantage of it,” said Kevin.  “We came over here to give our children a better life,” his mother Patsy added.  It was very bad.”

Her other son John said this day is all about showing your heritage and encouraging family spirit.

The parade followed State Route 9D through the village, and offered a wide variety of floats, including everything from pipe bands and fire departments to the US Marine Corps and children’s groups.

It went on as scheduled, despite the brief burst of snow that blanketed the parade route for about 20 minutes; but that didn’t stop residents from having a good time.

“It’s a DNA thing.  I love the music, I love the crowd; I love the spirit.  I come down from Rhinebeck every year to see this and it works for me,” said Irishman Steve Kerry.  His lady friend Lisa White added, “Everybody’s Irish today.  He celebrates Italian day (Columbus Day) with me, so I celebrate Irish day with him.”


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