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Thousands brave brisk winds to pack Colorado Springs St. Patrick’s Day parade route

By: Jesse Byrnes, jesse.byrnes@gazette.com
March 15, 2014 Updated: March 16, 2014 at 6:32 am
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A bulldog with the Bulldog Club of Colorado Springs dresses in green as it marches down Tejon Street Saturday, March 15, 2014, during the St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The thousands of Irish enthusiasts who lined Tejon Street on Saturday for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade had to keep a tight hold on their shamrock sunglasses and tiny leprechaun hats.

Strong winds whipped through the crowds and cold temperatures called for extra layers of green clothing, but the weather didn't put a chill on the revelry.

The celebration started early with a 50K bike ride that kicked off at 8:30 a.m., followed by a 5K race and Leprechaun Fun Run along Tejon.

The parade started at noon and the procession lasted until about 2 p.m.

Wind was the biggest factor this year, said Pat Haug,, who has for several years been a float judge for parade, now in its 30th year.

The gusts reached speeds of up to 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service based in Pueblo, which also said the wind chill was near freezing.

"This has been about the coldest and windiest year," said Terry Housman, who has attended the parade the past five years, this time wearing a bright orange coat and an Irish flag skiing hat.

Melissa Baker, a family friend of Housman, brought her niece Samantha, 7, and nephew Sabian, 6, to the parade, unfolding lawn chairs near the front of the parade route. The kids wore clover sunglasses and green bead necklaces and filled a cloth bag to the top with candy and flyers from passing floats.

There seemed to be more people this year from the beginning, said Dave Cook, another judge.

More than 100 floats, bands, marching and riding groups, and car and motorcycle clubs breezed through the city's innermost area, including the Irish-dancing Celtic Steps, piping Pikes Peak Highlanders band and local divisions of multiple military branches.

A Palmer High and Sabin Middle School marching band was one of the largest groups in the parade, with attendees also seeing the Sky Sox's Sox the Fox mascot on a unicycle, a 12-person bike as well as a mini submarine, part of the Pikes Peak Marine Corpe League's float.

Two six-foot-high shamrocks and four slightly smaller leprechauns crafted out of metal sheets comprised one of the most memorable floats, built by metal students with Local Union No. 9.

"They go above and beyond," said Haug, one of three parade float judges.

"It was really fun," said 7-year-old Emma Harre, who played American folk songs like "Boil Them Cabbage Down" and "Old Joe Clark" on the violin in the parade. She sat with others members of the Pikes Peak Suzuki Music Association on a float covered in plastic clovers and green balloons.

This year's parade included four DeLoreans courtesy of the Rocky Mountain DeLoreans car club.

DeLoreans, popularized by the 1985 film "Back to the Future," were first produced in a factory in Northern Ireland.

This year's parade grand marshal Pam Shockley-Zalabak, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs chancellor, said she doesn't have any Irish heritage, but that serving as grand marshal "will always make St. Patrick's Day special" for her.

"I was surprised to be asked, but I was honored because it is a special Colorado Springs event," said Shockley-Zalabak, who rode shotgun in a red 1965 Ford Thunderbird.

"Seeing that whole line of people for blocks and blocks and blocks was truly terrific."

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