Despite the cold, the St. Patrick’s parade marches on

Bundled up for a cold celebration, marchers pass out candy at the St. Patrick's Day parade on March 11. VANESSA CHAVEZ/EXPLORING

Vanessa Chavez

Omaha World-Herald Explorer

The cold did not stop spectators from getting out to support the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The parade is held in order to commemorate St. Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. The event also celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general.

Parade chairman Hugh Spellman made sure everything ran smoothly. Spellman recognizes the role the parade plays in keeping the spirit of St. Patrick alive.

“The parade is a way to help recognize St. Patrick and Irish Americans that have come before,” Spellman said.

Spellman says his favorite part of the parade is watching everyone have a good time and seeing the variety of groups registered for the parade.

With curls bouncing, Dowds Irish Dancers stomp on a float at the St. Patrick's Day parade on a chilly March 11. VANESSA CHAVEZ/EXPLORING
With curls bouncing, Dowds Irish Dancers stomp on a float at the St. Patrick’s Day parade on a chilly March 11. VANESSA CHAVEZ/EXPLORING

Spectator Brooke Morehead, along with her family, has been coming to the parade for the last five years. She believes it is important to expose her children to other cultures and heritages.

Morehead came to the parade to not only support her husband, who is part of the local fire department and would take part in the parade, but also to support the community as a whole.

“It’s a big community event, a good time to be with the Omaha community and come together to celebrate the community’s diversity,” Morehead said.

For Lori and Chris Rewczuk, this year marks the third time they have attended the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“It’s always a lot of fun, the kids enjoy it, we like to meet friends here and together celebrate St.Patrick’s Day,” Lori Rewczuk said.

Although the Rewczuks are not Irish, to them, attending the St. Patrick’s Day parade has become a family tradition. They also recognize the importance of experiencing different cultures.

St. Patrick is recognized globally as the patron saint of Ireland, and he is also the patron saint of engineers. Chris Rewczuk keeps that in mind when celebrating the day because he himself is an engineer.

The Rewczuks also have a special reason to celebrate the occasion. On the official date of St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, daughter Brooklyn turned 3 years old.

ParadeDaughter
Temporarily tattooed, Brooklyn Rewczuck celebrates St. Patrick’s Day and an early third birthday at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. VANESSA CHAVEZ/EXPLORING

Heartland Pride embraced at first foray into St. Patty’s Parade

Members of Heartland Pride prepare to march at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. EMMA WHALEY/EXPLORING

Emma Whaley

Omaha World-Herald Explorer

A different kind of rainbow led to the pot of gold Saturday at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Thirty-five to 40 supporters and members of Heartland Pride marched proudly though the streets, a massive rainbow flag trailing behind them.

Heartland Pride is an organization whose mission is “celebrating and promoting the history, diversity, and future prosperity of the LGBTQIA community of the heartland.” It is a non-profit organization that strives to raise awareness of and support for members of the LGBT community. It gives up to $5,000 in scholarships each year and hosts the Tom Mahony Pride Prom, as well as holding its annual pride festival in Aksarben Village

The sun reflects a rainbow on the pavement underneath a large rainbow flag carried by members of Heartland Pride, who marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. EMMA WHALEY/EXPLORING
The sun reflects a rainbow on the pavement underneath a large rainbow flag carried by members of Heartland Pride, who marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. EMMA WHALEY/EXPLORING

Saturday was Heartland Pride’s first time in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but the organization showed the spirit of seasoned marchers. Participants wore green hats and necklaces. Caleb Edmonson donned a green suit and leprechaun ears while the current president of Heartland Pride, Christina Arellano, wore a hat complete with two ginger braids.

“We are trying to work on our branding,” Arellano said. “People seem to think that Heartland Pride is just one big annual party . . . so we are trying to get our name out there as a non-profit organization and not just our annual festival.”

Scores of people and their children lined the curb of the parade route, which began at 15th and Harney Streets and stretched out for nine blocks. When asked about expected ridicule, Arellano responded, “we’ve had nothing but positive feedback . . . there’s always that fear and the hope that nobody does or says anything like that.”

It seems that the feedback stayed positive. Tina Larson, who was there with her two grandchildren, said she had no problem with Heartland Pride marching in the parade.

“I think they deserve every right to (march),” Larson said, “I’ll be the one cheering for them.”

Pride2
Members of Heartland Pride march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. EMMA WHALEY/EXPLORING

That sort of mindset was found all along the parade route. People didn’t seem to care that a bunch of LGBT people and allies were going to march down the street handing their children candy and necklaces.

Danielle Johnson helped carry Heartland Pride’s rainbow flag on Saturday. She shared why she and her eight-year-old daughter decided to come out in the cold and show pride.

“I think anytime you see kids, adults, older adults that are being accepting,” Johnson said, “it shows the younger generation that they can be themselves and they can be okay. I actually have a five-year-old transgender daughter . . . that’s why we’re here.”

It just goes to show that whether it’s in an Irish flag or a rainbow one, everyone can show off a little green leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.

‘Rump Roaster’ male cheerleaders and more: Where’s the Beef? The St. Patty’s parade

Sir Loin, the Omaha Beef indoor football team's mascot, waves at the St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. KATE SMITH/EXPLORING

Kate Smith

Omaha World-Herald Explorer

Coming to the parade for the 13th year in a row, long-time Rump Roaster Moose performed and shared candy and a smile with Omaha parade go-ers at the annual Omaha St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“We always like to get out in the community, meet people and give back,” Moose said.

The Rump Roasters, the all-male dance team for the Omaha Beef, are used to performing outside the Ralston Arena. They try to perform for the community as often as they can. But they don’t do it alone.

Omaha Beef Float
Gridiron markings on a pull-behind trailer gave personality to the float of the Omaha Beef indoor football team at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. KATE SMITH/EXPLORING

Just as they do at the Omaha Beef football games, the Rump Roasters paraded alongside the female dance team, the Prime Dancers, and Beef mascot Sir Loin. Beef quarterback Anthony Iannotti also participated in the parade. The Beef are a minor-league football team.

“We have a lot of new people this year, and we are excited for what they bring to the show,” Prime Dancer Cashell Montez said.

The Rump Roasters braved the cold, decked out in Irish Kilts and custom Rump Roaster St. Patrick’s Day T-shirts, featuring a shamrock and the Rump Roaster logo.

Meaty male cheerleaders, known as the Rump Roasters, lead the parade float for the Omaha Beef indoor football team at the St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. KATE SMITH/EXPLORING
Meaty male cheerleaders, known as the Rump Roasters, lead the parade float for the Omaha Beef indoor football team at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. KATE SMITH/EXPLORING

“It might be one of the coldest parades we’ve been to, but last year it rained,” Eric Sherwood said.

Nevertheless, they brought the heat with a football field-inspired float that captured detailed yard lines, and, of course, an Irish flag.

“We’re really just out to represent the Omaha Beef football team and do some community service,” Moose said.

And represent they did.

Exploring students endure the cold to chronicle St. Patty’s parade

Exploring adviser Rick Ruggles (far left) introduces Exploring students Alejandra Varela (left, middle) and Vanessa Chavez (right, middle) to Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts (right). Students in the Exploring program tracked down stories at Omaha's St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 11.

Rick Ruggles

Omaha World-Herald Exploring Adviser

Six Omaha World-Herald Explorers descended Saturday on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Omaha.

The high school students, members of the Boy Scouts’ Exploring career-discovery program, covered the parade in freezing weather, interviewing and photographing participants and spectators.

Vanessa Chavez of Millard South and Alejandra Varela of Omaha South met Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Zoey Huckins of Duchesne Academy interviewed parade chairman Hugh Spellman. “He likes to come here because it (the parade) recognizes the Irish culture in America,” Zoey said.

Emma Whaley of Omaha Central aimed to find the Heartland Pride LGBT group in the parade. She located it and scampered around it, shooting photos of its members and their huge, rainbow-colored flag.

Emma Whaley of Omaha Central kneels down to snap photos of the Heartland Pride LGBT group.
Emma Whaley of Omaha Central kneels down to snap photos of the Heartland Pride LGBT group. CHRIS PETERS/EXPLORING

Kate Smith of Millard North and Jake Pietryga of Omaha Gross interviewed representatives of the Omaha Beef football team.

“They had their quarterback and their male dancers and the cheerleaders,” Kate said.

Kate Smith of Millard North (middle, right) and Jake Pietryga of Omaha Gross (far right) interview representatives of the Omaha Beef football team in the moments before the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Kate Smith of Millard North (middle, right) and Jake Pietryga of Omaha Gross (far right) interview representatives of the Omaha Beef football team in the moments before the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. CHRIS PETERS/EXPLORING

Metro-area Exploring leader Tara Lopez took photos of the students. So did Chris Peters, a reporter for the World-Herald and a leader of the newspaper’s Exploring group.

The temperature hadn’t reached 30 degrees yet. Jake arrived at the World-Herald in shorts but wisely changed into long pants.

The parade was cold but the vibe was warm.

Participants included dancers and clowns, cops and firefighters, dogs and kids, beauty queens and old men, Mayor Jean Stothert and her mayoral opponent Heath Mello, bicyclists and people in Star Wars costumes.

Clowns in golf carts prepare for the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. CHRIS PETERS/EXPLORING
Clowns in golf carts prepare for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. CHRIS PETERS/EXPLORING

Vanessa interviewed a family with a young girl whose birthday falls on St. Patrick’s Day.
Alejandra said it was fun to see the dedication of the people enduring the cold to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which officially falls on March 17.

And it was fun to see the dedication of the World-Herald Explorers, working as journalists at a chilly, beautiful St. Patrick’s Day Parade.