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Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Happy Meal St. Patrick’s Day gets some frowns

Green_McDIf you’re looking for a Irish/Celtic tradition at the St. Patrick’s Day celebration you may have to look really hard for the usual fair of Irish/Celtic music.

It looks like Ronald McDonald is teaming up with Downtown Roanoke Inc.’s first stab at putting together the St. Patrick’s Day parade and “Shamrock Festival” on March 16. McDonald’s golden arches are turning green for the annual Celtic tradition. From what I’m hearing not all are enthralled with what is being dubbed as a “30-something First Fridays green-beer theme.”

Over the years the Celtic celebration has steadily grown attracting 10,000 to 20,000 people from all over. They come to participate in good ol’ Irish tradition, listen to Celtic music, watch Celtic dancers, try a little Irish  jig themselves and wear and drink a lot of green.

All parade participants be they Irish or not respected the Irish tradition. Will a green Ronald McDonald lead the parade? Seems a bit “happy meal” cartoonish and disrespectful to have a clown the center of attention.

The Celtic Festival “was meant to be the ‘family-friendly’ event that year after year had somewhere in the audience four generations of Irish descendants side-by-side enjoying and appreciating that their collective cultural heritage was being celebrated with proper integrity … indeed happy and proud to invite others to join in the fun,” says Jim Baldwin.

Baldwin is a proud Irish bagpiper and his band Second Wynde is a St. Patrick’s Day staple. He even played for Mayor Bowers (who is of Irish heritage) during his mayoral campaigns. He is not pleased with the way DRI is disrespecting the Shamrock Celtic Festival.

Baldwin wonders why a diverse city like Roanoke would allow an American ethnic group that carries religious significance to “be buffooned, lampooned, and cartooned in such a manner as to have on the festival logo an offensive, lucky-charmed, 4-leaved clover. Also, why is this the only ethnic event in all of Roanoke that is not controlled by people who are directly involved in the culture it represents.”

According to Baldwin DRI scheduled no Celtic music at all until pressured.

The Celtic Festival stage, now called the Shamrock Festival stage, schedule shows a rock band will take the stage for 2 hours between 3:00-5:00 p.m.. Though Madrone is a local and evidently well-known rock band (consider that I have never heard of them and I am old) the Celtic music, dancing and attendee participation will be missing.

DRI on the St. Patrick’s Day and Shamrock Festival facebook page defended the celebration saying, “Beggar’s Circus [will perform] before the McDonald’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, we’ll have tons of Celtic music in this year’s parade, and we’re going to have bagpipers playing from 2pm to 3pm! We’re excited to have so many great local bands playing, and we’re looking forward to an incredible event.”

Irish regulars of past St. Pat’s Day celebrations will be disappointed in the dilution of Irish custom at the festival. The First Friday’s crowd probably won’t understand what all the kerfuffle is about.

To make a point would a rock band have been appropriate for the Chinese New Year event held at the Taubman museum or any other ethnic event meant to highlight a particular culture. As Baldwin put it – it isn’t an Easter Bunny Bash.

By Valerie Garner

Categories: Local Events

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