A Donahue to lead St. Patrick's Day procession

Skagit Valley College
Skagit Valley College's Executive Vice President Mick Donahue will serve as Oak Harbor's 38th St. Patrick's Day parade grand marshal.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

The 38th grand marshal for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade next Thursday in Oak  Harbor boasts ties to a famed Irish castle and a mysterious tale.

Skagit Valley College’s Executive Vice President Mick Donahue was selected to lead the annual green procession through downtown Oak Harbor this year.

Donahue’s Irish heritage traces back to the O’Donoghue clan, whose ancestral home was the Ross Castle in County Kerry, Ireland. Ownership of the castle switched hands throughout the years and there is a legend that the leader of the O’Donoghue clan was sucked out of the window of his chamber and thrown into the depths of a nearby lake with his horse, table and library. It’s said that he now lives in a majestic palace underneath the water and keeps a close eye on those above.

Donahue said in his own family, his Irish heritage was most obvious through his parents’ and siblings’ dedication to Norte Dame sports. Donahue and his four brothers all attended the Irish-Catholic university and his parents were avid football fans.

Donahue has been with SVC for 27 years. Though he’s been associated with the Whidbey Island Campus for the past 19, this year will mark Donahue’s first-ever Oak Harbor St. Patrick’s Day parade. Donahue and his wife have always lived off-island, currently residing in Anacortes, so he can easily commute to SVC Mount Vernon, where he’s also on staff.

“I’m really excited to be a part of the parade,” Donahue said. “It’s a great community event. I don’t know what role I’ll play, but I guess I’ll work on my wave.”

Donahue is still working out the details of his parade attire, but mentioned a lime green T-shirt from O’Donoghue’s Bar in Dublin. He said he hopes to be accompanied on the route by his wife and dog.

The actual procession, organized again by the Irish Wildlife Society, will kick off at 4 p.m. on St. Patty’s Day, March 17, though entrants are asked to be ready by 3:30.

Because of the construction on Pioneer Way, this year’s route will be a little bit different. The parade will start at Jensen Street and move west down Pioneer Way taking a left on Dock Street to head to Windjammer Park and the windmill for the ceremonial kissing of the Blarney Stone.

“Just a little detour,” parade organizer Dutch Strehle said, “but it’ll be fun.”

There will be prizes awarded for green attire and enthusiasm along with a community sing-a-long led by Paul Kuzina. The invocation this year will be given by Chaplain Phil King.

As of Tuesday, Strehle said the parade had 21 entries including high school groups, the Crab Queens, Pearl Harbor Survivors and the Leprechaun Express. If all goes as planned, the participants will be walking down a festively-decorated Pioneer Way.

“Unknown leprechauns are expected to get up early in the morning (on St. Patrick’s Day) and stamp shamrocks on the street to give businesses good luck,” organizer Barbara Berry-Jacobs said.

It’s even rumored that the construction cones will be “greened-up.”

Other Irish events next week include a potluck meet-and-greet at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 14, with John Keane of Seattle’s Irish Heritage Club in the Oak Room at SVC. Furthermore, the Oak Harbor Yacht Club is hosting an Irish-themed dinner of corned beef and cabbage after the parade. Tickets cost $13. For details, call the Yacht Club at 675-1314.

“I call this the beginning of Irish week,” parade organizer Helen Chatfield-Weeks.


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