Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times Coupeville’s Lindsey Helm attends Oak Harbor’s 2016 St. Patrick’s Day Parade with daughters Finley, center, and Scotlyn.

Break out signs for St. Patrick’s Day parade

The Irish Wildlife Society is trying to kick-start on old tradition during Oak Harbor’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Friday.

Clan signs on sticks will be re-emerging during the parade. Bystanders who descend from Irish heritage and recognize their family name are welcome to join the parade.

“Apparently, it was practiced in years past,” said Bill Ferry, one of the parade’s organizers. “People used to turn out for the parade and sort of root for their family and root for their clan.”

At least 51 entries, the most ever, will participate in Oak Harbor’s 44th St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The parade will start at 4:30 p.m. and make its way down Pioneer Way.

Afterward, a traditional Irish meal including corn beef and cabbage will be served at the American Legion post on Barrington Drive.

Lance Gibbon, the superintendent of Oak Harbor Public Schools, will serve as grand marshal but won’t be holding up a clan sign.

“Well, I’m not Irish,” Gibbon wrote in an email. “I’m mostly Welsh. However, I was very pleased to be inducted as a member of the Irish Wildlife Society.

“I was surprised to be asked to be the grand marshal since I’m not Irish. But, as they explained that the reason was that the committee was so proud of our students and schools and all they have accomplished, it was humbling more than anything.”

Gibbon will be following in the footsteps of high school choral director Darrin McCoy, who wore that distinction proudly last year, donning a lime green jacket decorated with shamrocks and Scottish kilt.

“Oh, I’ve got something special,” Gibbon wrote.

Skip Pohtilla, longtime member of the Irish Wildlife Society with his wife K.C., will bring two clan signs to the parade — one labeled “Donovan-Doyle” and the other “O’Rourke-Dillon.”

The signs are nothing fancy — just a stick with a cross piece of wood carrying the clan name, no crests.

“We went fairly simplistic,” Pohtilla said with a laugh. “We operated on a shoe-string budget.”

K.C. Pohtilla’s mom, the late Eve Oliver, was formerly grand marshal of the parade, a title that was later worn by K.C.

Skip Pohtilla, who’s mostly Scandinavian, just tries to blend in. He’s proud to carry on the sign tradition.

“It never really disappeared,” he said. “It just sort of faded.”