Monday, March 17, 2014

Sporting the Green


  Happy St. Patrick's Day, 2014
(Click on images to see larger)

I grew up in a household where the only formally acknowledged holidays were Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. (Birthdays were noted, but without much fanfare.) Anything beyond these was considered either patently frivolous or unworthy of attention because it was probably a contrivance of the greeting card industry.
This is probably why I showed up at the 47th Annual Ocean View St. Patrick’s Day Parade without so much as a stitch of green clothing on me.
One afternoon in 1967, so the story goes, a couple of guys sitting around at the Ocean View Knights of Columbus clubhouse wondered:
"Why don’t we have a parade to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?"
And so they did. This past Saturday’s was the 47th Ocean View St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (Yes, I know Saturday wasn’t really St. Patrick’s Day. Ocean View residents, though, are working people. On Monday they’ll be back at the shipyard, the Navy base or any of a thousand other jobs where you don’t get the day off.)
 The Grands, 2014
 Over the years I’ve photographed at a lot of parades. The first thing you need to know about this one is that it’s not about the parade. Sure, there are the predictable flags and floats, princesses, clowns, police and fire vehicles and Shriners in their go karts and hillbilly jug bands. And in this case you add in robed Knights of Columbus, Hibernian heritage claimants, step dancers and even a group of Scots playing bagpipes. 

 The Family that Wears Green Together, 2014
It’s the pride of the people who come to watch this parade, though, that makes this one special. It’s their parade, not something the tourism or economic development folks foisted on them. Virginia Beach’s Neptune Festival Parade has fancier floats and more music. Downtown Norfolk’s Christmas Parade has more lights. The Greening of Ghent probably has more hipsters. But for unabashed pride of place, it’s hard to beat Ocean View.
Ocean View gets a bad rap sometime, especially if your barometer of civic health is the police blotter. It’s true that it’s more desirable sections along the Chesapeake Bay are getting gentrified. But the people who come out for this parade are mostly long-time residents, people who raised their kids there and are proud to stand up for their community.
Hours ahead of the parade’s starting time spectators start staking out places along its route. Tailgaters fill the grassy median between the lanes of Granby Street. Residents along the route set up chairs and tables on their porches or lean out their second floor windows with cameras.
And no matter how rich or poor or young or old or black or white, they all come decked out in green. 
 Bring on the Irish Men!, 2014
 I’d never attended this parade before. When I first thought about photographing the parade this year, I thought I’d be shooting pictures of floats and bands. But in the end the photographs that I enjoy the most are the photographs of the people.
As for all the color, a day spent here could put you off green for while. 
 "I'm not Irish. But I like beer and jugs." 2014


  1. Your eye captures more than great photo ops.

  2. Show the world the meaning of the Companions..