Brad Merritt grew up in Chicago, where two St. Patrick’s Day parades go through the downtown and the south side of the city, and a plumber’s union turns the Chicago River bright green on March 17.
To help Oakland County kick up its heels, the 32-year-old Ferndale transplant joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians Norman O’Brien Division last month and is putting his online marketing skills to work promoting their parade set for 11:30 a.m. March 10 in
AOH members promise the best parade yet for Oakland County with more bagpipers, step dancers, clans and floats making their way down Washington Avenue from Royal Oak Middle School to Seventh Street.
“I’m really excited about this one. I’ve never had so much help,” Stephen Zannetti said of the parade the AOH started in 2001, taking just a wee one-year hiatus.
Merritt designed a website for the AOH division with a Facebook link and a cart for the fraternal, non-profit group to sell its new St. Patrick’s Day T-shirts.
As they say in Gaelic, cead mile failte (one hundred thousand welcomes) to the 21st century for this ancient group that formed in the 1500s to protect priests who risked death for holding Mass.
These days the AOH emphasizes friendship, unity and charity — three goals that attracted Merritt.
“The brotherhood of it is cool to me, and I want to help raise awareness about this organization,” he said. “I think the community needs us to reach out them first with the website.”
For the parade, the AOH urges spectators to wear green for the occasion and consider joining the procession along with the newest clans — the Kellies and Cavanaughs. The Clancy, Guirey, Hannigan, Hennessey, O’Brien, and Sullivan families also registered.
“Every clan tells me they will be out in force with up to 80 relatives. We’ll see,” Zannetti said.
This year’s grand marshal is Dan Reedy of Danny’s Irish Pub, Ferndale, which marks its 27th anniversary this year. AOH members call it “the epitome of an Irish pub.”
“It’s not a sports bar. It’s homey and has more people than TVs,” Zannetti said.
Don Reid of Royal Oak and Malenida Sutton are honorary grand marshals and Mrs. Michigan 2011 Annette Kelly will wave to the crowd.
“We’ll also have the top three Irish schools of dance and a slew of politicians who will wave and shake hands but we have told them no pamphlets along the parade route,” Zannetti said.
He asked all parade participants to find a way to work music into their unit, which won’t be hard for radio station Doug FM and the two vehicles it plans to send.
“I expect we will hear some Irish punk, maybe some Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys,” Zannetti said.
After the parade everyone is invited to the Royal Canadian Legion, 1005 E. 11 Mile Road, Royal Oak, for corned beef and more music.
Slainte (cheers, good health)!