Irish gearing up to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

GENESEE COUNTY — As the Irish and not so Irish prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the Ancient Order of Hibernians are looking at changes in their observance of the annual March 17 program.

The festivities still will kick off with a traditional 12:02 p.m. Mass in St. Michael Catholic Church in Flint, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial in nearby McFarlan Park.

But, instead of returning to St. Michael for an afternoon celebration, the venue will shift several blocks south to St. Matthew Catholic Church for food, music and entertainment before the day is capped by the 37th annual Pot ‘O Gold four-mile run and walk.

Patrick Fergerson, this year’s grand marshal, explained that renovations to the former St. Michael and Schools of Choice school building forced the transfer of activities.

And, since this year’s observance falls on a Friday of Lent, the Irish will forgo corn beef and other meat food items for meatless mostaccioli and ravioli, tuna casserole, salads, fruits and rolls because practicing Catholics are required to abstain from eating meat during the six Fridays of Lent.

But other Irish fare will be very much in evidence, starting with scones, rolls, juice and coffee served in the St. Matthew Church hall at Beach and Third Streets at 1:30 p.m. before the main buffet is rolled out at 2 p.m.

Revelers also can listen to music by Equinox, watch Irish dancers and take advantage of a cash bar for liquid refreshments.

The runners and walkers will make their way through downtown Flint beginning at 6 p.m., preceded at 5:30 p.m. by a Little Blarney Kids run. The race and walk will begin and end at the Masonic Temple on South Saginaw Street where a post-race awards program and party will take place. Registrations are being taken at Complete Runner, 915 S. Dort Highway, Flint.

The Mass at St. Michael, located at North Saginaw Street and Fifth Avenue, will honor St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, and will be celebrated by Bishop Earl Boyea of the Catholic Diocese of Lansing and area priests. Genesee is one of 10 counties in the Diocese of Lansing.

Along with the Mass, Miss Hibernia and her court will receive the scholarships they won when a panel of five judges selected them from a field of 11 contestants at a pre-St. Patrick’s Day party on February 11. Miss Hibernia, Jenna Holt, 21, a 2013 Davison High School graduate and a senior at Northwood University, will receive a $1,300 cash scholarship. First runner up, Madeline Rasberry, 18, a 2016 graduate of Davison High and now a freshman at University of Michigan- Flint, will receive a $700 scholarship and Francine Staudacher, 18, a Powers Catholic High School senior from Fenton, will receive a $500 scholarship as second-runner-up. Both Holt and Rasberry live in Davison Township.

The Irish Mother of the Year and Irish Father of the Year also will be honored at the Mass.

“Anybody and everybody are welcome to attend our celebration,” said Fergerson, of New Lothrop, who was selected by past Grand Marshals to head this year’s festivities.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is America’s oldest Irish Catholic fraternal organization founded concurrently in the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania and New York City in May 1836.

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