Corktown's St. Patrick's Parade celebrates Detroit's Irish heritage

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
Erin Irwin waves an Irish flag while marching in the 57th annual Detroit St. Patrick's Parade/

Irish pride will be on full display Sunday with the return of the Detroit St. Patrick's Parade Sunday in Corktown.

Forget the green beer and neon wigs, though. The 61st Detroit St. Patrick's Parade is about heritage and honoring the patron saint of Ireland, not the stereotypes, says parade chairman and United Irish Societies president Michael Kelly. 

“We’re celebrating the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick and the St. Patrick’s Parade, not the St. Patrick’s Day parade,” he said. “As part of the United Irish Societies agreement in our bylaws, we always have the parade the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day. That’s for the Irish bar owners and all the establishments so they have two days of (high) revenue instead of one.” 

“It’s all about tradition and our Irish heritage, and not about green wigs and silly shamrock glasses or beer goggles and things like that. That’s not what we’re celebrating or promoting.” 

People march in the 57th annual Detroit St. Patrick's Parade.

This year the parade's theme is "Corktown: Where Detroit Meets Ireland." In addition to the local dignitaries, bands, floats and other entertainment, the procession includes grand marshals Paul and Agnes Gowdy, two Metro Detroiters who were born in Ireland and have been active in the local Irish community for years. 

Kelly says the parade is and always has been in Corktown on Michigan because that is where so many Irish immigrants came when they moved to Detroit. 

This year, the area has a new neighbor, Ford Motor Company, which is investing $740 million into a 1.2 million-square-foot Corktown campus for 5,000 of its workers at the Michigan Central Depot. 

“This year we’re very excited that Ford Motor Company is moving into Corktown, it’s an excellent time to get the city together and celebrate our heritage,” he said, adding that Ford is presenting sponsor of the parade last year, this year and next year. He said there have been talks about, in the future, ending the parade at the train station and having a carnival on that site. 

Until then, Ford will provide pick-up trucks and Mustang convertibles to pull floats and carry dignitaries down the parade route. 

The day starts with a 10 a.m. Mass at the nearby Most Holy Trinity church, followed by the Corktown Races 5K run/walk which will see more than 8,000 people trotting down Michigan Avenue to raise funds for the Saint Patrick's Senior Center.

Twitter: @melodybaetens

St. Patrick's Parade

Sunday in Corktown

10 a.m. Mass at Most Holy Trinity Church, 1050 Porter

10:30, 10:40 and 11 a.m. start times for Corktown Races, Michigan Central Depot, 2001 15th street, Detroit. Visit 

11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Family fun zone is open at northeast corner of Michigan and 6th. Buy tickets in advance for $12, $60 for six-pack at 

1 p.m. Parade steps off at 6th street and moves west down Michigan to 14th street. 

(313) 475-4675 or for more information

Joe Considine from West Bloomfield Township rides his 1882 bicycle Sunday along Michigan Avenue in the Corktown section of Detroit.