Gray skies and nippy temperatures Saturday did not deter thousands of people from marching in and watching the 32nd annual St. Patrick’s Society Grand Parade through downtown Rock Island and Davenport.
It is the only bistate St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country, spanning two cities, two counties, two states and crossing over the Mississippi River.
Minor disasters also were not enough to interfere with the joy of being in the parade for the Hughes family clan of the Quad-Cities.
“Our float broke apart and now we are just the clan,” said Kevin Hughes. “I was driving over here with our float about 10 a.m. and it was windy. It just collapsed. It crushed all the flags we had and I just parked.”
So the 15 family members grabbed their flags and walked the route.
“The Hughes clan is from Moline and Iowa, all over. We were all born in Rock Island, though,” said his brother, Frank Hughes. “We have not missed a parade.”
Regulars parade-goers were on both sides of the river. The crowds seemed larger than in recent years. Side streets were filled with parked cars and people dressed in green,
Floats, marching bands, decorated vehicles, and of course, candy thrown in the direction of children along the route, made for a festive outing for everyone.
“I am with my sister, my kids and nephews,” said Victoria Granada of East Moline, bundled up and on a lawn chair in Rock Island. “I come here every year. Same spot. I just enjoy watching everything that comes down. And the candy.”
Wayne Mitchell Jr. of Moline watched his second St. Patrick’s Parade in the Q-C. That was not the case for his wife, Catrina Mitchell.
“I grew up here,” she said. “He did not. I have been coming my entire life. He was at Camp Lejune, North Carolina, in the Marines.”
It was the first parade for their one-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
“I still excites me and I am 26,” Catrina Mitchell said. “And now I can carry on this with my kid here."
“There is a lot of energy here,” Wayne Mitchell said. “There is a lot of Irish pride out here.”
Jennifer Conner of Sherrard came with her children, grandparents and some friends.
“I have been coming four or five years, but my grandparents have been coming for about 10 years,” she said. “It is a fun celebration with family and friends. Parade are always fun.”
Being Irish for this holiday is a tradition for many, even if that is not actually part of their genetic DNA. For example, take the Peeters family of the Quad-Cities and beyond. Their surname is German.
But on this day, they had their traditional O’Peeters float carrying more than 40 relatives.
“I think we have been in 30 of the 32 parades,” Tom Peeters said. “My dad, Fred, started it all. He wanted to train a horse to go over the bridge the first year of the parade, which he did.”
Rick Blanche of Davenport, a family member through marriage, said relatives came for as far away as Colorado to ride the float.
“It is our favorite time of the year,” he said. “My brother and daughter come home for this.”
The parade began at the corner of 4th Avenue and 23rd Street in Rock Island and finished along 3rd Street at the RiverCenter in Davenport.