44th Annual Silky Sullivan St. Patrick's Day Parade set for Saturday

44th Annual Silky Sullivan St. Patrick's Day Parade set for Saturday

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Gather up your little leprechauns and all the four leaf clover you can find and head on down to Beale Street for the 44th Annual Silky Sullivan St. Patrick's Day Parade.

The Beale Street Merchants Association invites you and your family to put on your green and join the thousands of other "Irish" revelers Saturday, March 11 at 3 p.m. for the Memphis' largest parade with bands, cars, dancers, floats and more! Organizers say this year's parade celebrates the Irish traditions in the Mid-South and family.

This year's King is Irish Eye's Co-Founder Mark Flanagan with his daughter, Hallie, as Queen. Dr. David Acey, founder of Africa in April, will serve as Grand Marshall. The parade is free and open to everyone.

About the Beale Street Merchants Association:

Beale Street Merchants Association is composed of thirty businesses located in the Beale Street Historic District. It is the Association's mission to promote Beale Street in its capacity as the number one tourist attraction in Tennessee as well as educate residents in the surrounding region of the importance of the Beale Street Historic District Heritage. The Beale Street Historic District employs approximately 700 people.

History of the Parade:

The parade was one of the activities of the Irish Eyes, 43 years ago. The Original Irish Eyes were Thomas Boggs, Mark Flanagan, and Thomas "Silky" Sullivan. The group started in 1969 when Memphis native Mark Flanagan began St. Patty's Day barbecues at his home. By 1973, the barbecue was so big it grew into a multi-venue event.

The Irish Eyes came up with the idea to have a pub crawl that started Downtown and ended in Overton Square. There were two headquarters for the crawl - Silky O'Sullivan's (where it started) and Huey's Midtown (where it ended). They invited guests from Ireland to Memphis to take part in the pub crawl, parade and other activities. They even selected an "American Irishman of the Year."

Memphis was one of the few cities in the nation with an official St. Patrick's Day celebration. This time period also marked beginning of the Northern Ireland conflict, known in Ireland as "The Troubles," so the Irish Eyes used their activities to raise awareness about the injustices. The events were also always interracial  at a time when blacks and whites didn't mix much.

Today, the crawl has changed, with the group mainly focusing on the Irish community in Memphis, celebrating Irish culture and raising money for community organizations. The St. Patrick's Day parade is the oldest continuously running parade in the city still in operation.

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