It started around 5 PM with live music, great food and every Irish drink available for a pre-show hour of fun filled gatherings. At 5:30 PM the parade cast was busy finishing the last touches of their costumes, while guests continued to arrive. The sun was shining and a beautiful breeze kept everyone comfortable. At 5:45 PM the bag pipes and drummer could be heard warming up just around the corner.
At 6PM the live band stopped and everyone took to the street for the parade to begin. This years cast was led by Connie Davis – “The Queen of Everything”, followed by a parody funeral march – including bagpipes, and drummer, a hearse, a widow and priest,
The Pope, some naughty nuns, an Irish princess, leprechauns, The U.S. Marine Core League #1058/pallbearers, and mourners lined along the street in all shades of green. This year there was a new character added to the mix… Mrs. O’Leary and her cow that kicked over the lantern that started the famous Chicago fire. But she walked at the end so the cow wouldn’t cause any issues.
They made their way down the street to arrive at Big Dog Station, where the casket was carefully walked on to the patio, as parade participants and mourners could pay their final respects to Finnegan. When they opened the casket a replica Leprechaun was found resting peacefully inside. The hilarity continued on as favorite Irish songs were played, a few toasts were had and the party dispersed into the crowd.
There were plenty of festive Covid-19 – safe green masks, hats, outfits, and costumes on show, and it was a good showing of about 200 people throughout the night – between the parade, the street events and the bar itself. Big Dog served corn beef and cabbage by the plate full. Tents and tables were set up outside for guests to sit and enjoy their meals, listen to the band and catch up with each other from a stressful year’s distance for most.
In between the festivities I caught up with Deb Blakley and Connie Davis, the organizers of the event. Both elated to be able to put this on for the locals and all the people in the industry that look forward to it. “We’ve had calls from the NY to the UK to see if we were going to do it this year. One family even plans their trip around the event ever since they discovered it five years ago”, said Deb.
When the initial planning began they were afraid they would have to cancel it for the first time in 17 years. “We have dealt with heat, rain and thunderstorms, but Covid-19, that’s another thing. So we had to plan things a little different”, said Connie. For example the parade was smaller this year, and they were distanced 20 feet apart or more in the line up, and the coffin was placed on a pool table outside, instead of the usual inside spot.
Masks were mandatory for everyone inside and as much as possible outside. This was the last event they did in 2020, as all bars were closed on 3/17/2020 due to Covid-19. They were very happy this was their first event for 2021!
When the parade arrived at Big Dog Station, the casket was placed on the patio as parade participants and mourners payed their respects to Finnegan. They opened the casket to find a leprechaun replica resting peacefully. The hilarity continued as Irish songs were played, the Pope blessed the casket, toasts were had and the party dispersed into the crowd.
The party continued on with live music, food and connection. Although there was talk of Covid-19, there was also a lot of talk about coming together as a community and people helping one another. The live band could be heard from down the street as people sang along, and innocent onlookers joined in on the celebrations.
“With everything that we all went through in the last year, it’s really nice to get outside, see friends and see the community together doing something fun. I hope next year its even bigger!”, said one long time attendee of the event. “It’s always good to see friends and make new ones here”.
If any of you would like to be involved in this event, sponsor a portion, or be part of the cast, please contact Connie Davis at 954-383-2285. We welcome all, and look forward to seeing you next year!
Kim is a South Florida native with a background in Non-Profit work, Special Events, Public Speaking, Community Outreach, and Development. Oakland Park has been her home for 20 years. She is a creative catalyst who enjoys creating win-win relationships on whatever project she puts her mind to. She is involved in Animal Rescue, Art events, C.E.R.T., and an American Red Cross volunteer. In her spare time, she does photography, writing and the outdoors.