March 26 2009 12:00 AM

Thousands expected for annual St. Patrick’s celebration in Grand Ledge

Ken Black was dreaming up new ways to put Grand Ledge on the map when someone told him about a small, do-it-yourself celebration thrown by a few local residents.

“Four Grand Ledge neighbors of varying Irish descent developed a scheme to turn their two blocks into a makeshift St. Patrick’s Day parade route,” Black said. “Neighbors came out in the cold to share a drink and celebrate.”

Founder Dan O’Shey said he got the idea from being involved in similar celebrations in his native Bay City. He got the ball rolling in 2002 with help from neighbors Jim Hogan and Greg Osburn. Black, who owns Four Seasons, a gift shop in downtown Grand Ledge, saw the potential in what the men had started and got in touch with the guys about bringing their festival downtown two years later.

About 3,500 people showed people just for up to the inaugural parade in 2004, which featured 30 floats, two pipe and drum bands and a free post-parade concert of Irish dance and music.

What started as a basement operation is now a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to throwing one of the biggest annual bashes in mid-Michigan.

Over the years, Black, who sits on the parade’s board, said the formula has stayed the same, but the parade and interest have grown, with crowds reaching as high as 8,000 and parade entries up to 50. “It’s huge,” Black said. “What everybody does is dress up. The whole city turns green. We have people
who reschedule their vacations to come home for this thing.”

This year’s festivities include the traditional Saturday afternoon parade, as well asIrish dancing and music, provided by Easter Rising and the Glen Erin Pipe Band; an Irish stew cook-off; and pony kids. Most activities are free with an optional donation, the money from which Black said benifits local charities.

The main thing, in Black’s mind, is reminding people Grand Ledge exists. “We community, and sometimes people just forget,” he said. “It’s a safe place to be. You don’t have to worry about no riff raff. The biggest thing you’ll see around here is maybe a couple boys have too much of the drink and get into a fight.”

But Greater Lansing’s St. Paddy’s party doesn’t end with the weekend. Take a couple days to get rested, because plenty of local public houses are gearing up for your arrival on Tuesday, with drink deals, special menus and live entertainment to get you in the spirit. If you need help deciding where to spend the day, or want to find a new spot this year, check out our bar locator maps over the next few pages, which can also be downloaded at www.lansingcitypulse.com

And remember, as obnoxious as people will let you be just because it’s March 17, you’re still a jerk if you get behind the wheel sloshed, so please walk, bring a driver, arrange for a ride home or look into one of the local cab companies we’ve listed in this section for when it’s time to head home.

For St. Patrick’s Day event listings, see Page 26

6th Annual Grand Ledge St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration

March 13 & 14 Friday 6 p.m.-11 p.m.: Traditional Irish dancing and music at Grand Ledge Opera House

Saturday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Irish stew cook-off Noon-2 p.m.: Free movie at Sun Theater 2 p.m.: Parade

3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Irish dancing and music at Grand Ledge Opera House 5 p.m.-10 p.m.: St. Patrick’s

Dinner and Celebration at Grand Ledge Opera House (TICKETED EVENT – SOLD OUT)

9 p.m. - ?: Pub crawl Downtown Grand Ledge www.glstpats.org

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