ST. LOUIS — Centuries ago in Ireland, the Irish would gather on March 17 to honor St. Patrick on his feast day by marching to the local church, then celebrating the day with a festival. For 38 years, the St. Louis Hibernians have added to that tradition by showcasing St. Louis’ proud Irish heritage with the annual Dogtown St. Patrick’s Day parade.
"The reason being, Dogtown was one of the last Irish enclaves left in St Louis, the traditional Irish neighborhood," says James Mohan of the St. Louis Hibernians. "There was already a downtown parade. It's a big parade, but it kind of became a civic event. We wanted to do a thing. Was more traditionally Irish focus on Irish culture and history."
Each year, a grand marshal is chosen to lead the 90 plus floats along the parade route. and you could say, this year’s Grand Marshal is quite familiar with the history.
Miss Julie Colombo is 100 years old and will turn 101 in April. She is a life-long resident of the Dogtown community.
"It is an honor and I really appreciate it because I love my neighborhood. I love the Irish and I love the parade," Colombo says.
"She's just amazing. She's a fountain of knowledge about this neighborhood," Mohan explains.
Miss Coloumbo is not the only integral part of the Dogtown neighborhood, so is her parish, St. James the Greater.
"St. James' is the heart and soul of the Dogtown neighborhood that's pretty much accepted by everyone," Mohan says.
The church was established over 160 years ago by Irish immigrants and still stands today at 1360 Tamm Avenue.
"The parish has been my whole life. My whole life that's been the parish," Colombo explains.
Today, she will lead the parade past the church that’s been a centerpiece of her life and her neighborhood for over 100 years. A celebration of a community and a woman who continue to make an impact on every visitor who passes through.
"I'm just going along for the ride. But I am very, very grateful and honored. You've been chosen. The dream nobody expects. But if you live long enough, really good things happen," Colombo says.