Des Moines is home to Iowa’s largest parade and Chicago’s green-dyed river draws hundreds of thousands each March, but the Quad-Cities has formed its own St. Patrick’s Day style over the years.
As many as 50,000-75,000 people are expected to congregate Saturday in and around downtown Rock Island and Davenport, according to the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, for festivities centered on the annual 5K race and bistate parade.
"The Quad-Cities is normally known for its strong summer festivals, but we're finding spring and fall are becoming strong as well," said Joe Taylor, president and CEO of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. "St. Patrick's Day is one of those big weekends, and a lot of that is because of the parade. It's one of the Quad-City's favorite parades."
The weekend’s main event, the St. Patrick Society Grand Parade XXXII, generates more than $1.3 million in annual spending around the Quad-Cities, the visitors bureau reports.
Read on for all you need to know about St. Patrick’s Day weekend in the Quad-Cities.
Gear up for the parade
This time of year, the Q-C’s lucky claim to fame is hosting the only bistate St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country, which means you’ll see a wave of green floats, crowds and bands Saturday on both sides of the Mississippi River.
The St. Patrick Society Grand Parade XXXII steps off at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of 4th Avenue and 23rd Street in Rock Island and crosses the Centennial Bridge into downtown Davenport before ending at the RiverCenter.
To grab your spot amid expected large crowds, Taylor offers this advice: "Come very early."
"Part of why it's so big is the time of year; it's been a while since our last parade, and people are ready to be outside," Taylor said. "It also unites two downtown areas, and you don't normally have that. You have one mega-green downtown."
Traditionally, the Roman Catholic holiday recognizes St. Patrick, known for bringing Christianity to Ireland, so the celebration begins following a 10 a.m. Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Rock Island.
Joe Dooley, president of the St. Patrick Society, said this year’s two-mile procession features 65 entries, including “quality” floats, marching bands and, wait for it, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
“It takes a lot of time and dollars, but it’s a labor of love,” Dooley said of the volunteer-run production, which took several months to plan. "A lot of people think the cities put this parade on, but they do not."
Former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, whose mother was born in County Galway, Ireland, will serve as the parade’s grand marshal, and longtime parade-enthusiast Linda Phelan Shaw of Eldridge was crowned the Irish Mother of the Year.
Prior to the march, keep your eyes peeled for the River Bend Foodbank truck, which will be collecting monetary donations along the route to help feed the hungry in the Quad-City area.
Continue the celebration at the Post-Parade Bash from 1-4 p.m. at the RiverCenter, 136 E. 3rd St. St. Patrick Society members get in for free, and non-members will be charged $15 at the door. The party includes food, drinks, live Irish music, Irish dancers and the presentation of parade trophy winners.
Faux pub in town
A recent installment on the route at 224 W. 3rd St., Davenport, also may stand out to parade-goers.
From afar, it appears a new Irish pub opened in the former home of Del-Rich Pawn Shop, sandwiched between The City Church and Infinity Salon & Spa. Up close, you'll discover it's just a mirage.
JJ Condon, who owns the building and is renovating the bottom floor, slapped a 14-foot by 24-foot shamrock-green depiction of a pub on the exterior wall, temporarily covering up plywood.
“The St. Patrick’s Day parade is a really big deal for us, and we wanted to make sure we are looking our best when the parade comes by,” Condon said.
Before purchasing the property a few years ago, Condon, who lives above the vacant space with his wife, Amy, and their 1-year-old son, marched in the parade.
The owner of Davenport-based Applestone Homes won prizes for his St. Patrick's Day-themed floats four years in a row.
“Since we bought the property, we sadly haven’t been in the parade,” said Condon, whose wife is pregnant with the couple's second child, due in September. “This is a fun way for us to participate, even though we’re not in the parade."
Behind the poster, which One Step Print Solutions designed and produced, Condon said they are redoing the façade. Urban Farmhouse, a home decor store in Geneseo, eventually will move into the space once the project is complete.
On your mark, get set ...
The 35th annual CASI St. Patrick's Day Race returns Saturday to downtown Davenport. Proceeds will benefit the Center for Active Seniors Inc., or CASI.
A child-friendly Tot Trot kicks things off at 9 a.m., followed by a one-mile family fun run at 9:30 a.m. and 5K at 10 a.m.
Organizers expect as many as 3,000 runners and walkers decked in festive costumes to participate this year.
Saturday’s forecast calls for sunny skies and a high around 45 to 50 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, Davenport. It may get a bit breezy, however, as winds are expected to reach 15 to 25 mph.
Register online by 11 a.m. Friday at bit.ly/2n41gpV. Latecomers can register in person starting at 7 a.m. on race day at the Figge Art Museum, 225 W. 2nd St., Davenport.
Online registrants can pick up their packets from noon to 6:30 p.m. Friday and from 7-9:50 a.m. Saturday inside the museum.
From 1-6 p.m. Friday, trainers and representatives from area fitness and running clubs will be on hand at the Figge’s Bechtel Plaza for the inaugural “Fit and Fun” Expo.
Because of construction downtown, participants should return to the plaza for this year’s after party, which includes Irish music, a bagpiper, snacks and beer, starting at 11 a.m.
Last year’s event raised almost $100,000 for senior services, including the senior emergency food pantry, fans for seniors and Jane’s Place adult day services program, according to CASI.
Where to park; how to get around
When asked how people should navigate downtown on Saturday, Davenport Police Lt. Shawn Voigts offered simple instructions: “Don’t.”
Iowa-bound lanes on the Centennial Bridge will be closed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the St. Patrick Society Grand Parade XXXII. Police will shuttle traffic between Rock Island and Davenport on the Illinois-bound lanes.
Additionally, various stretches of 3rd Street between North Division and LeClaire streets will be closed in the morning and early afternoon. Parking will be prohibited along that section and along 2nd Street between Ripley and Brady streets from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.
While temporary street closures during the parade and race may stymie access, parking will be available throughout the day in the city’s three garages:
• RiverCenter Parking Ramp, 102 E. 2nd St.
• Redstone Parking Ramp, 101 Main St.
• Parking Ramp, 331 W. 3rd St.
Voigts, who noted 25 Davenport police officers will help direct traffic from the start of the race until the end of the parade, suggests people park their cars at least a couple blocks away from the action and walk.
“If you’re a runner, that gets you out of the area a lot quicker,” he said. “Leave early and just take your time.”
Looking to get around without a car this weekend? Citibus route detours also will be in effect from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Also, ride-sharing apps such as Uber are available in the Quad-Cities. Kelly's Irish Pub & Eatery is offering $5 off Uber trips for party-goers Friday and Saturday. A similar app, Lyft, arrived on the Davenport scene in January. To use Lyft, download the free app via Google Play or the iTunes store, sign up and add a payment method. Then request a ride and get matched with a nearby driver in minutes to set up your ride. When you get dropped off, pay through the app on your phone.