Green is good – Oak Harbor’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade is back!

— Created March 16, 2022 by Melanie Hammons

By Melanie Hammons

Oak Harbor’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade will be turning the downtown green with an in-oerson event once more. The parade begins promptly at 4 p.m. Thursday along Pioneer Way.

The pandemic shut down 2020’s parade, as it did most other cultural events and gatherings; 2021’s event was drive-by only. But there are several great reasons to join in the fun this year in downtown Oak Harbor, says Susan Konopik, president of the Whidbey Island Irish Wildlife Society, which plans the parade each year. 

“For one, March 17th means that spring is just three days away.  Two, the day following the parade is Friday, easily everyone’s favorite day of the week,” said Konopik, (who goes by ‘Sooz’).  “And three, there’s no charge to be in the parade.”

Local businesses, nonprofits, first responders, several dance groups, and families, among others, are participating.  One characteristic such a diverse group shares is what Konopik describes as a common appreciation for a really “Main Street” type of event.

“Our local Society is very close to celebrating 50 years as an organization.  It’s been sort of a grassroots-type effort that began in the 1970s. But all along, we’ve tried to keep that old fashioned spirit going,” she said.

Some people have the idea that a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration is only for the Irish among us, said Konopik.  “But I’m not even Irish myself,” she countered.  “You might say that we’ll have Irish of all stripes marching this year,” including residents of Thailand, Pakistan, Jamaica, and the Philippines, among others who will make up the parade’s contingent.  And of course, the parade’s namesake, “Saint Paddy” himself, will make an appearance, too.

According to Konopik, there will be awards given for “Best Kids’ Entry,” and “Best Irish Spirit.”  And in keeping with the holiday, there will be the uniquely titled “Most Likely to Create Shenanigans” award.  The judges for that one are none other than Oak Harbor’s finest, local police department and fire department personnel.

Those aren’t the only prizes in play, however. 

Two independent pub crawls are featured this year.  Local bars and taverns plan to take the fun a couple of notches higher with their own trivia games, prizes, etc.  But the most intense competition is for the “Grand Potato Award,” said Konopik. 

“The winner of that coveted honor is where our society will be hosting our monthly meetings for the next year,” she said.

Beyond the prizes, pub crawls, and merry-making, there are also other themed events to look forward to, said Konopik. 

“The American Legion hosts a really delicious corned beef dinner that day.  That’s something we always look forward to, not to mention the traditional sing-alongs and skits that follow the meal,” she said.

Each year, the Whidbey Island Irish Wildlife Society chooses a Grand Marshal for the parade.  Konopik said this honor is open to community members who are not members of the Society. 

“We look for someone who just does a lot of good around our community,” she explained. “We want to recognize those in the background who are a positive influence in the community.”

 This year, they welcome Maria McGee, who owns The Lotus Tea Bar and Studio in Oak Harbor.  As if operating a business were not enough to keep her immensely busy, McGee also teaches yoga classes at Skagit Community College and Oak Harbor’s senior center.  She saaid she’s not only appreciative but deeply honored to be selected Grand Marshal for this year’s parade.

“I grew up in this town,” she said. “It means so much to represent it in this way. Plus, I get to wear a Saint Paddy’s outfit, and ride in a pickup truck!”

McGee’s selection is especially meaningful on a personal level, too.  Along with celebrating March 17 as a holiday, it also happens to be her birthday, making the occasion doubly significant for her and her loved ones. 

McGee has owned the combination tea bar/yoga studio for 12 years.  She successfully shepherded it through the pandemic’s challenges.  The business serves over 150 different varieties of tea, something that leads to another interesting observation. Among some of her most popular selections are, (what else?) the green teas.  And what could be more fitting for Saint Patrick’s Day than that?

For more information about Oak Harbor’s 2022 Saint Patrick’s Day parade, contact  The Whidbey Island Irish Wildlife Society can also be found on Facebook.