Garrity follows long line of St. Patricks

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are not only a Natchez tradition but also a family tradition for this year’s St. Patrick, Joe Garrity.

While the Krewe of Killarney has celebrated with a parade for the special day the past 14 years, the Burns family, his mother, Liz Burns Garrity’s family, has been celebrating the day in Natchez for more than 100 years.

Garrity, a Natchez fireman and third generation Natchezian, is just the latest in a line of Irish revelers. His great-grandfather, Patrick Burns, was born on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. When he moved to Natchez, he started the wearing of the green, according to Garrity’s uncle and grandson to Patrick, Peter Burns. Then, at Burns Shoe Store on Main Street he handed out shamrocks for the occasion. The family continued the tradition until the store closed in 1998, ending with Peter and Andrew &uot;Doc&uot; Burns handing out the shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day.

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Garrity can remember his uncles handing out the shamrocks, keeping the Irish day at the forefront of people’s minds every March 17.

&uot;I dedicated, at the auction, my reign to those two individuals because they were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day before the krewe was even thought of,&uot; Garrity said.

Not only has Garrity’s family kept up a celebration of the day but they also have been active members of the krewe.

&uot;It’s neat to be, so far, the only St. Patrick that has a pretty close connection to a former St. Patrick also,&uot; Garrity said, whose uncle, Pat Burns, brother to Peter and Andrew, was the second St. Patrick for the krewe.

Now, Garrity will carry on the family tradition, serving as the Krewe of Killarney’s 14th St. Patrick.

Not only that, but the 39-year-old is the youngest St. Patrick as well.

As St. Patrick, Garrity will lead the krewe down Main Street for their parade, walking to the bluff where Garrity, as St. Patrick, will rid Natchez of the snakes by casting them into the Mississippi River. This is a change from his normal responsibility in the parade, where he usually is last, as the organizer of the parade.

Garrity is proud of his Irish heritage, his family originating from County Armagh, he said.

&uot;I have other stuff in me (Italian, etc.) Š I just claim the Irish a little more,&uot; Garrity said. &uot;Because the Irish have more fun.&uot;

The krewe welcomes all Miss-Lou residents to celebrate the holiday with them on Wednesday at 5 p.m. with their annual parade, starting at St. Mary’s Basilica and heading down Main Street.

&uot;You don’t have to have any Irish connection&uot; to be part of the krewe or the celebration, Garrity said. &uot;You can be Irish for a day.&uot;

Not only does the krewe hold an annual parade and celebration, they also raise money, through their minimal dues and a silent auction. They give five, $500 scholarships, one to a student at each of the four high schools in Natchez and Vidalia High School from the Burns-Dunagan Scholarship Fund. Also, the krewe makes contributions annually to Holy Family and Pleasant Acres Day School. In addition, with the passing of a founding member of the krewe, Jean Williams Farrar, the krewe established a perpetual $500 scholarship to Holy Family, in addition to the annual contribution, to be used for the pastor’s discretionary funds.

&uot;The main purpose of the Krewe of Killarney is to help the youth of Natchez,&uot; Garrity said, but they also like to have fun.