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Americans Become Honorary Irishmen On St. Patrick’s Day Today

March 17, 1987

Undated (AP) _ New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the world’s oldest and largest, stepped up a sun-drenched Fifth Avenue today, as Cleveland prepared a salute to Irish mothers and Savannah, Ga., dished up green grits and eggs in honor of Ireland’s patron saint.

About 120,000 marchers and 1 million spectators turned out for New York’s 226th, 42-block-long wearin’ o’ the green.

The day started out with a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, celebrated by Cardinal John J. O’Connor. O’Connor, in his homily, decried the ″gross immorality″ of job discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland.

He pleaded for ″fair employment practices in the north of Ireland. This is a matter of absolute justice.″

An estimated 50,000 marchers, with 73 floats, 47 bands, 55 marching units and 28 special units were expected for Chicago’s parade, including a float of the Chicago skyline built by the city’s best-known Irishman, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley.

James Brady, the White House press secretary seriously wounded in the 1981 attempt on President Reagan’s life, was to be among those leading the parade.

About 10,000 people were expected to take part in an annual parade started in Cleveland by the Irish in 1867. Among them was 79-year-old Hannah Byrnes, this year’s Irish Mother of the Year.

In Savannah, which lays claim to the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration outside New York, the four-day bash attended by an estimated 300,000 people was to culminate today with the town’s 163rd annual march.

Before stepping off, parade participants and members of Irish groups held traditional breakfasts featuring green grits and eggs.

Many New Jersey residents did their celebrating over the weekend.

″On Tuesday I guess everyone will go out for a corned beef sandwich at lunch, and maybe even have an Irish coffee. But that’s about it,″ said Barbara McFadden after marching in Newark’s parade on Sunday.

On Monday, Finns in heavily Scandinavian Minnesota saluted the mythical St. Urho, their latter-day answer to St. Patrick, who according to legend drove the snakes from the Emerald Isle.

St. Urho, invented in the 1950s by a professor at Bemidji State University, supposedly chased the grasshoppers out of Finland with his pitchfork, chanting ″Grasshopper, grasshopper, go away.″

That supposedly saved the country’s grape crop for wine production - never mind that grapes don’t grow in Finland. As a result, places around Minnesota were draped in purple Monday.

″The legend is just as real as the snakes of Ireland,″ said Helen Saari, board member of the Finnish-American Heritage Inc.

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