I sat in a horse-drawn carriage, age thirteen, with green hair extensions clipped in my hair as I leaned over the side of the carriage to wave at the passing crowd. My grandparents sat across from me in matching green kilts, crowned as the King and Queen of the Allentown St. Patrick’s Day parade. In a few years, I’d dawn a kilt of the same color and attend yet another coronation- despite, myself, having no irish heritage.
My aunt lived in the West end of Allentown, one block up from the bend in the parade route. Since my early teens, every St. Patrick’s Day was filled with cheap plastic beads, flashing green hats and feather boas, and green solo cups. I’ve attended the coronation every year since, and watched irish dancers of all ages tap the floor, bodies straight and stiff and piles of coiled hair bouncing. This tradition continued once I joined Muhlenberg.
Muhlenberg has a similar tradition- with the fairgrounds so close, how could it not.The cardinal and grey campus is dyed green for a full day, students in green wigs and tulle skirts and wrapped in Irish flags as the parade of bagpipes, Irish dancers and trolleys march down Liberty Street, on the back end of campus. Benfer holds its Benfer Bash, students run in 5K in front of the parade. This year, in addition to the parade, there was also a Shamrock Shake dance, hosted by Housing and Residence LIfe, as well as St. MACtrick’s Day which featured other green activities. This year, extra security was hired to prepare for expected crowds, Dean Gulati stated in an e-mail to the student body.
The holiday has come far from its beginnings, but it has all been kept in the family. The Allentown St. Patrick’s Day parade began in 1957 by James and Ann Brown. Currently, their grandchildren still run the parade and ride every year in a green trolly to keep their grandparents’ memory alive, they told 69 News.
“It’s important. It’s important. It’s family,” Tom Molseed, the grandchild of Browns, told 69 News.
The same can be said for this year’s King and Queen, Phillip and Kim Ferguson.
“I’ve been involved with the St.Patrick’s Day committee my whole life. 15 years old I started on the committee, it’s a great honor,” says Phillip.
The parade begins at the Allentown Fairgrounds, a block from the furthest student residences, and goes down Albright street, turns onto Tilghman, then 26th and marches down Liberty street, the edge of campus.