Hilo Irishman plans first-ever St. Paddy’s parade


Hilo resident Sean O’Phelan said its an appreciation of heritage and a passion for community that inspired him to form Hilo’s inaugual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“I want the community to march in the streets and show how important it is to keep our family traditions strong,” he said.

Forming a St. Patrick’s Day parade has been a mission for the 33-year-old Irishman since he moved to Hilo in 2009. Both O’Phelan’s father and sister started St. Paddy’s Day parades in cities on the mainland, and he felt it was his calling to follow in their footsteps.

“I was tired of not seeing a parade and thought, you’re an O’Phelan, you must represent,” he said.

According to an article article published on Encyclopedia Britannica, St. Patrick’s Day is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. The date of St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, falls on the date of his death. He is known for bringing Christianity to Ireland.

It is also said that he drove the snakes out of Ireland by using a shamrock, a long-growing, cloverlike plant with three-lobed leaves that is the national emblem of Ireland. The Emerald Isle and other areas around the world celebrate his day with parades, feasts, and services.

And according to O’Phelan, you don’t have to be Irish to join in on the fun.

“I want the community to come out and wear their coolest Hawaiian gear or greatest Portuguese outfit and bring it out because this isn’t about being Irish, it’s about being a part of a community,” he said.

The community has pulled together to help see O’Phelan’s goal come to fruition. There’s a volunteer parade committee that has worked to collect the $1,000 needed for the parade. The committee is still $800 short, but will be selling special parade buttons that can be used for discounts at various businesses from March 1-15. The buttons cost $5, and a portion of the proceeds will go toward the Special Olympics in Hilo while the remainder of the funds will pay for the cost of the parade.

The parade is sponsored by Big Island Kombucha, Island Naturals, Basically Books, Oasis Skate Shop, Charlie’s Big Island Candies, ACR Dollar, Hilo Tobacco, Bayfront Kava Bar and Snow Factory Hilo. Buttons can be purchased at these locations and more.

The parade is also supported by the Friends of St. Patrick’s on Oahu.

Issa Hilweh, owner of Hilo Town Tavern who will be hosting a post-parade celebration, said he’s looking forward to the festivities.

“It should be a memorable event,” he said.

O’Phelan said the parade kicks off at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 15. The parade starts at Ben Franklin Crafts and will continue down Keawe Street to Wainuenue Avenue to Kamehameha Avenue, up Kalakaua and ends at the park. There will be keiki and family-friendly activities throughout the day.

For more information the parade committee will meet at the Hilo Town Tavern on March 2, or follow the First Annual Hilo St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Facebook.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com.