Shamrock Club of Wisconsin

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The Shamrock Club of Wisconsin is the oldest and largest Irish American membership organization in the State of Wisconsin. It was founded on March 17, 1960, in Milwaukee. Currently there are chapters in Milwaukee, Fox Cities (Appleton and Oshkosh), North east end and Wisconsin, (Green Bay), South Central, (Baraboo), Dane County, (Madison), New London, La Crosse, and Lafayette County, (Darlington). The Rock County (Beloit and Janesville) chapter folded in 2007.

The Shamrock Club was organized by members of Milwaukee's Irish community who had been a part of the Milwaukee Holiday Folk Fair's annual November festival. Helped by the International Institute of Wisconsin, the Club met to organize on March 17, 1960, St Patrick's Day. A few years later, it would incorporate under Wisconsin corporation laws, and later would receive a federal 501 C (4) as a charitable, social and cultural organization.

The Shamrock Club would gain a foothold in the Irish community by sponsoring and chartering flights to Ireland. These trips were very popular, and there were often multiple trips to Ireland each year. When the chartered flights program started, there was little in the way of direct flights to Ireland, and those that existed were often prohibitively expensive. Changes in the federal laws would take the Shamrock Club out of the charter business, as more commercial airlines saw the growing interest in Ireland to be a viable money making option for them.[1]

State chapters[edit]

As interest in the Irish in Wisconsin grew, various chapters came to life across Wisconsin. The current chapters include [1] the Shamrock Club of La Crosse, in Western Wisconsin; Darlington's [2] LaFayette County chapter; New London's [3] Shamrock Club of New Dublin; Dane County, [4] based in Madison; The Shamrock Club of Green Bay and NE Wisconsin [5], in Green Bay; and the South Central Chapter, based in Baraboo and Portage. Fox Cities was revitalized by an influx of native born Irish in the late 2000's. Some chapters have disappeared, including Twin Lakes, and Fond du Lac. The Rock County chapter disbanded in 2007, due to lack of new members.

Statewide chapters hold monthly meetings, organize Saint Patrick's Day parades, hold various festivities, raise the flag over the State Capitol, as well as other Irish related activities. In New London club leprechauns change the towns name to New Dublin for St. Patrick's Day week. All of the chapters are involved in fund-raising and have donated thousands of dollars to numerous causes in the past four decades. Membership includes the printed version of the monthly publication.[2]

Milwaukee Chapter of the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin[edit]

The Milwaukee Chapter meets the first Thursday of each month at the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center, 2133 West Wisconsin Avenue.

Milwaukee Saint Patrick's Day activities throughout the year include:

  • Gaelic Mass at St. Patrick's Parish, 7th and Washington on Parade Day
  • Parade at Noon, Wisconsin Avenue.
  • Post Parade party, 1 p.m. at the ICHC.
  • Monthly meeting, 1st Thursdays of the month, 6.30 p.m., ICHC
  • Visit the Shamrock Club at Milwaukee Irish Fest in the Sales and Cultural Areas
  • Representing the Irish at Milwaukee's Holiday Folk Fair in the Cultural, Food, and Retail areas
  • The annual picnic in August.
  • The Halfway to St. Patrick's Day Mass and Breakfast in September.
  • Christmas Party and Pot Luck Dinner.
  • [3] Emerald Reflections, the monthly newsletter
  • Shamrock Club Color Guard Pipes and Drums
  • Easter Rising Mass

Milwaukee board of directors[edit]

The 2017-2018 board of directors for the Milwaukee chapter are as follows: Joseph Hughes, President; Mary Culver, Past President; Taffy Anderson, treasurer; Maggie Blaha, membership; Jacqueline Konkol, sergeant at arms; Patrick Maes, secretary; parliamentarian, Josh Walton; Ron Danielson,vice president; truteess Nick Nowak, Pam Canon and Mary Moze. Their terms are from July 1, 2017 until June 30, 2018.[4]

They can be contacted at info@shamrockclubwis.com

Shamrock Club Color Guard Pipes and Drums[edit]

The Shamrock Club Color Guard Pipes and Drums of the Milwaukee chapter carry the colors of the Shamrock Club, Ireland, and various Irish organizations of Wisconsin. They have marched in Dublin, Ireland, San Antonio, Texas, Savannah, Georgia, New Orleans, Louisiana, and New York City. The combination of the Color Guard with the fully augmented pipe band has brought awards and praise to the unit. [5]

Organizations that grew from the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin[edit]

Organizations that grew directly or indirectly from the Shamrock Club are Milwaukee Irish Fest,[6] founded in 1981 by Ed Ward, past president of the Shamrock Club; Cashel Dennehy [7] and Trinity Irish Dancers, [8] formed when the Shamrock Club gave up control of the Shamrock Club Dancers; the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center of Wisconsin, [9] founded by Shamrock Club members as a home for Milwaukee's Irish; and Celtic Women International,[10] and the Conference of Celtic Women, [11] both founded by Jean Bills, who was treasurer of the Shamrock Club at the time.

Other organizations that have been given sponsorship or financial assistance by the Shamrock Club include: [6] Milwaukee School of Piping; the annual Irish Language immersion weekend in Milwaukee each year.

Chapter parades and festivals[edit]

Milwaukee St Patrick's Day Parade[edit]

The Shamrock Club would hold its first St Patrick's Parade in 1967 along Wisconsin Avenue. The parade was under the auspices of bar and restaurant owner Danny O'Donoghue for many years. O'Donoghue, a native of County Cork, was one of the driving forces of the Irish community in Milwaukee and Wisconsin for decades. The parade continued on Wisconsin Avenue until the Wisconsin Avenue's Bridge 1975 rebuilding forced a move to Mitchell Street, on Milwaukee's South Side. The parade was then headed up by Catherine "Cate" Harris. She was succeeded by Chuck Ward. The North Avenue Business Association wooed it to North Avenue, where it ran from 53 to 74 Streets, in 1986. Michael Boyle headed up the parade for many years, until he passed the reins to Tim O'Brien and Mick McDermott. The parade crossed two cities, Milwaukee and Wauwatosa.

The parade would later move to Bluemound Road for two years, still crossing both the cities of Milwaukee and Wauwatosa. A move to Downtown Milwaukee took place in 2002, which was the beginning of a partnership with the Westown Association, a downtown business association promoting the neighborhood west of the Milwaukee River. The Westown Association brought on Miller Lite in 2003 as presenting sponsor of the parade. During its run in downtown Milwaukee, the Shamrock Club has had Dan Malloy, Mike O'Leary and Kristine Pluskota all as parade directors. Mike Boyle returned in 2009, assisted by daughters Erin Boyle and Meghan Boyle. In 2012 and 2013, the parade was directed by Mike Boyle and Denis Donohoe. Killian's Irish Red, a MillerCoors brand, was the lead sponsor in 2013 and 2014.

In 2014, Josh Walton took over the parade. The parade was again led by Michael Boyle starting in 2015 and to the present.

The Shamrock Club of Wisconsin's parade annually draws between 40,000 to 80,000 spectators, who brave all types of weather conditions to watch the parade in either perfect or less than perfect conditions. It is the largest St. Patrick's celebration in the state of Wisconsin. The parade typically features between 120-150 units which include the area's six Irish dance schools, numerous pipe and drum corps, as well as other community leaders and Irish groups. In 2007, the New York City Police Department debuted in the Milwaukee St. Parick's Day Parade, bringing a contingent of 95 officers to march. They returned in 2008, with over 100 of NYPD's finest helping Milwaukee celebrate, as well as many members of the New York City Fire Department.

The 2017 Parade was the 51st.and was held on Saturday, March 11, 2017. And again, in 2017, It steps off at 3rd and Wisconsin at noon.

There is an annual Mass in honor of St. Patrick Mass on Parade Day at the historic St Patrick's Church, 7 and Washington. Now mainly a Hispanic parish, it is decorated in Celtic knots and has a statue in honor of St Patrick. The combination of pipes, choir and Gaelic liturgy have made it one of the highlights of the Irish community each St Patrick's Day.

A Post Parade Party has been held at various locations for the past fifty years. The most recent home has been the [12] Irish Cultural and Heritage Center, 2133 West Wisconsin Avenue, which is also the home of the Shamrock Club. The event is the largest Parade day family event in Milwaukee, with three Irish dance schools, a Scottish dance school, a dedicated children's education and play area, and a total of four stages. It averages about 1200 attendees each year.

New London - St. Patrick's Day Parade & Irish Fest[edit]

Each year the Shamrock Club of New Dublin hosts Wisconsin's largest St. Patrick's Day parade with an Irish Fest in New London. The parade typically features multiple bagpipe & marching bands, clown performers, specialty, clan, and business floats. Irish Fest is held in a heated big top tent with several Celtic style bands, food, beverage, and market booths.

A whole week of St. Patrick's Day events starts when club leprechauns rename the town to New Dublin. The events include; an evening of Irish entertainment, an Irish Ceili with a band and caller/teacher, Irish caroling, and an Irish wake parody. Corned beef and cabbage is served in the area in restaurants that week too. The parade and Irish Fest top off the week on Saturday.[7]

Finnegan's Wake is a yearly tradition in 'New Dublin'. It started years ago as a 'lark' when locals in mourning paraded down the main street with a manaquin (Finnegan) in a wicker casket. The parade has grown each year since with Finnegan now riding in a green hearse with faulty door locks that allow him with casket to fly out when the hearse pulls away.[8]

La Crosse - St Patrick Day Parade[edit]

The La Crosse chapter has a St Patrick Day Parade on the Saturday prior to March 17 each year, in downtown La Crosse.

In addition, the La Crosse Chapter also has a number of activities during the week before St Patrick's Day, including caroling at nursing homes.

Green Bay St. Patrick Day Parade[edit]

The Shamrock Club of Green Bay and Northeastern Wisconsin has a parade in downtown Green Bay on the Saturday prior to St. Patrick's Day.

Beloit St. Patricks Day Parade[edit]

The Rock County Chapter of the Shamrock Club is no longer in existence. The Shamrock club does not have a connection to the Beloit St. Patrick's Day parade any longer. The Beloit St. Patricks Day Parade took place every year in downtown Beloit. The parade began at the Kerry Group headquarters, a prominent food producer having originated in Ireland, and finished in Beloit's Central Park (Horace White). The parade was held annually on the Friday before St. Patricks Day.

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