The Irish first marched through Philadelphia to honor St. Patrick in 1771, starting a local tradition that goes on to this day.
The 245th edition of the Philadelphia St. Patrick's Day Parade will step off at noon Sunday from 16th Street and JFK Boulevard, then head up the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The parade is a celebration of Irish identity, "a good time for all our people to come together through our faith, our heritage, our life of family, all under the auspices of St. Patrick," said Kathy McGee Burns, grand marshal of this year's parade and a board member and past president of the St. Patrick's Day Observance Association, which organizes the march. She is also president of the board of directors of the Irish Memorial, the monument at Front and Chestnut Streets that commemorates the great starvation in Ireland of the mid-19th century and the Irish emigration to the United States.
Burns is thrilled to be the grand marshal - only the fourth woman so honored. "I'm still pinching myself," she said.
The parade will be a grand affair, with enough marchers to seem like a migration all by itself - bands, politicians, celebrities, Irish associations, community groups, and, unsurprisingly, more than two dozen dancing troupes. Archbishop Charles Chaput will celebrate a preparade Mass at 9:15 a.m. at St. Patrick's Church, 20th and Locust Streets.
Philadelphia won't be the only place in the region where the Irish will be on the move. "Shamrocks and Shillelaghs," Conshohocken's parade, will get underway at 2 p.m. Saturday and proceed down Fayette Street, from 11th Avenue to Elm Street.
Saturday will also bring the first Pennridge St. Patrick's Day Parade and Celtic Fest. The march will get underway at 11 a.m. at Maple and Lawn Avenues in Sellersville and end at Eighth and Market Streets in Perkasie. There will be games for kids before the parade at Earl Druckenmiller Park in Sellersville. The Celtic Fest will begin at 1 p.m. and end at 5 p.m. in downtown Perkasie, featuring live music, crafts, food, and beer.
The 27th annual Bucks County St. Patrick's Day Parade will make its way along New Falls Road in Levittown, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday after a preparade Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Levittown. The parade will end at Conwell-Egan Catholic High School.
What would St. Patrick's Day be without music?
The Galway Girls - Janice Landry, Meredith Beck, and Irene Molloy - will perform "Songs of Ireland" at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope at 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday. They'll sing traditional Irish songs such as "Whiskey in the Jar" and songs of more recent vintage such as "The Fields of Athenry."
Listen to some Irish harp music courtesy of Renee Arner starting at 2 p.m. Sunday and learn the history of the Celtic harp.
Ready for some foot-stompin' Celtic music? Check out the high-energy Glengarry Bhoys at the Sellersville Theater 1894 at 8 p.m. Friday. The Bhoys, from Glengarry County, Ontario, describe themselves as "alt-Celt," combining traditional and contemporary Celtic sounds.
Bill Monaghan and Celtic Pride will bring traditional and contemporary Irish music - and, likely, more stomping - to the Sellersville Theater on St. Patrick's Day itself. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Monaghan fronts the group.
If you fancy musical comedy, try on Lafferty's Wake, in the Red Room Cabaret at the Society Hill Playhouse. The audience becomes part of the wake for lovable rogue Charlie Lafferty at the village pub in an interactive show that playhouse cofounder Deen Kogan commissioned 19 years ago.
If you want to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by getting up and moving around (other than joining a pub-crawl), you can lace up the running shoes for a shamrock-themed 5K.
Here are a few:
The Conshohocken St. Paddy's 5K Classic will hit the road at 10:30 a.m. Saturday for a double loop of Fayette Street in Conshohocken. The event raises money for Conshohocken Fire Company No. 2.
The Leprechaun Run in Fairmount Park - with a five-mile running course and a two-mile run/walk route along Martin Luther King Drive - raises money for Special Olympics Pennsylvania. The races begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. The event turns 30 this year, so organizers have set a fund-raising goal of $30,000.
"Shake Your Shamrock" offers 8K and 5K races and a kids' run Saturday, starting at 2 p.m. in North Wales. Proceeds benefit the Life is Good Kids Foundation.
The West Chester St. Pat's 5K offers a 5K road race and a 2K Walk at 2 p.m. Saturday through downtown West Chester. The race benefits Bringing Hope Home, a nonprofit organization that helps local families deal with cancer. Race Day registration is $30.
Organizers of the Warminster 5K urge participants to wear green to their event Sunday.