“Why is this street green?”
My daughter was about 5 years old when she asked that question, mesmerized by the kelly green line of paint that ran down the center of Fourth Avenue between Pine and James streets.
“That,” I told her, with significant pride, “is our family heritage.” She didn’t quite get it, but when I told her that leprechauns would soon be using it as a walking path, she was pretty psyched. Leprechauns play big in the month of March in our family.
We are an Irish-Italian family and which side we favor depends on the time of year. When the “Laying o’ the Green Stripe” takes place on Fourth Avenue on a March Friday, we bring out the green clothes, chop up the cabbage for our corned beef supper and get ready for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade that will be marching along that lined swath of blocks on Saturday, March 11th starting at 12:30 p.m.
The parade begins at Fourth and James, then rolls north along Fourth to end at Pine.. Stake out your viewing at least 30 minutes early.
Each year, about 2,000 parade participants – pirates, pipe bands, high school bands, drill teams, Irish dancing groups, groups representing Irish and other organizations and a few wacky characters – parade downtown to show off their Irish pride and celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. The route is not as long as the annual Seafair Parade and there’s waaaay more green in this stroll, but it’s a fun family outing, with lots of flag waving, music and hilarity.
Follow the last participant down Fourth to Westlake Center and take a FREE ride on the Monorail for the closing ceremonies at the Irish Festival at Seattle Center.
About that green stripe
The first green line in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day was painted by Seattle shop owner John Doyle Bishop in 1947. Bishop painted the stripe each year well into the 1970s, when city officials finally forbade him from laying it down the street and instead OK’d green tape. While his Irish countrymen laid down the tape, Bishop painted a green stripe down the Queen Anne counterbalance and was arrested several times for his hijinx.
I told my daughter about the green line that used to run from the top of the hill when I was a kid. “You mean they tied a bow around the city?”
Not quite, but our family festivities around St. Patrick’s Day in Seattle does wrap the city in a warm green hue of belonging.