Band blows away local St. Patrick’s Day parade

The band, which includes University alumni and an employee, had 10 scheduled performances that day.

Emily Banks

It was the beginning of a long day of festivities for the Brian Boru Irish Pipe Band. First stop, St. Paul’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“Everybody got their drumming or piping buddy?” said band member Dan Sexton as the bus pulled away from O’Gara’s Bar and Grill on Friday morning, heading for downtown St. Paul.

“We could probably book until 2 a.m., but we just can’t play that much,” said Andy More, the band’s manager.

The pipers and drummers, including some former University students and a current University employee, assembled at Sibley Street and East Fourth Street.

People with green hair, green clothes and giant fuzzy green hats, old men with green mustaches and children with shamrocks on their cheeks lined the streets.

“Here come the bagpipes!” parents announced to their children as the band marched in step up the street, wearing uniforms based on the Irish Army, complete with kilts and sashes.

Robin Skeie, who works at the Terrace Café on the University’s St. Paul campus, said wearing a kilt doesn’t bother her. She joined the band in late December.

“I just love tenor drumming,” said Skeie, who knew the band needed a tenor drummer and decided to join.

“It sounded like a great opportunity,” she said. “It’s a commitment, but not as much as some other musical endeavors.”

As the band neared the end of the parade, it crossed Rice Park and marched through the columns of the Landmark Center and into more St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Band members climbed on the bus to head back to a crowded O’Gara’s and perform again.

“The hard part’s over,” Sexton said.

Matt Grimm, who plays drums in the band and graduated from the University in 2004, joined the band as a high school sophomore and founded a student chapter of the Irish band at the University.

He recently proposed to his fiancée, the parade’s Miss Shamrock, while members of the band played bagpipes for them.

The band was founded in 1962 to promote Irish culture, community and fun, said band member Mike Faricy. One of the original band members, Chuck “Stub” Russell came along for the ride.

“I can’t play anymore, I’m too old,” he said. “But I still enjoy the parades.”

The group tends to become a family affair, said John McCormick, a former University student who joined the band in the ’70s. Members of McCormick’s family, as well as Russell’s son Charlie, are part of the band.

The band’s day was scheduled to end at 10:30 p.m. Friday after about 10 performances, and they donned the kilts again Saturday in Iowa.