KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States date back to before the colonists declared independence. In Knoxville, celebrations date back to the 1850s according to the Knoxville History Project.
The Knoxville St. Patrick’s Day nonprofit shared that by 1869 there was a city-sanctioned parade. This parade started near Market Square, going down Walnut (then Crooked Street), and went through downtown, East Knoxville, and North Knoxville. The Knoxville History Project shared that the local paper Press & Messenger, reported, “Nothing calculated to mar the pleasure and harmony of the day occurred…. Our Irish fellow citizens will long have reason to remember with pleasure the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, 1869” about the parade.
As the years went, this parade would die off. However, it was not the end of St. Patrick’s Day parades in Knoxville. In 1980, John and Pat McLaughlin brought the St. Patrick’s Day Parade back to Knoxville.
“In June of 1979, my husband, John, and I were sitting at a bar talking about a St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” said Pat McLaughlin. “It always bothered him that St. Patrick’s Day was not recognized more. He always talked about organizing a parade, I just told him he was crazy.”
“We all put a quarter in a cup – he, I and the bartender – and started the Green Puddle Fund right there in the bar that night. The next day we ran an ad in The Journal and it just grew from there.”
This parade would run from 1981 to 1986 following John’s death, according to the Knoxville St. Patrick’s Day nonprofit.
Jack Neely, the director of the Knoxville History Project, shared with WATE that there has been a push to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Irish heritage. Neely added that he thinks Knoxville recently discovered its own history and people want to have a connection with countries their ancestors are from. This desire is what led Chandle Turbyville, Josh Turbyville, and Christy Watkins to bring the parade back to Knoxville.
The modern Knox St. Patrick’s Parade was canceled in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The 2020 and 2021 cancelations were due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Then a late winter snowfall forced the cancellation of the 2022 parade. The 2023 parade is set to go off rain or shine.