Madison will be celebrating Irish heritage in Wisconsin this coming weekend with annual St. Patrick’s Day events.
Madison’s 10th annual Shamrock Shuffle will have participants running, jogging or walking through University of Wisconsin’s campus Sunday, March 17, with the 16th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade scheduled in the Capitol Square for later in the day.
Shamrock Shuffle Race Director Steven Donovan expects 5,000 people to run in this year’s race, mainly participating in the 5K and 10K events.
“It’s meant to be a fun run,” Donovan said. “It’s one of the less competitive races. We see a lot of first-time runners. We see a lot of people coming back to running.”
The race course is spread across University of Wisconsin’s lakefront, beginning at the 500 block of State Street, Donovan said. The race begins at 10 a.m., and depending on the course participants choose to run, they may travel as far as University Bay Drive, he said.
While some participants may compete with an intention of perfecting their run times, Donovan emphasizes the lighthearted nature of most runners, as evidenced by their decisions to wear costumes.
“It somehow became a tradition where people decided to dress up in the craziest costumes,” he said. “Every year, I’m more and more surprised by what they’ll wear. Last year we had a guy in simply a green Speedo and green top hat!”
According to parade committee member Tessa Sokol, as part of Madison’s annual parade, an event started in 1998 by University of Wisconsin student Katie O’Phelan, clowns, stilt walkers and vintage cars are just a few of the sights spectators can see beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Sokol said over 70 groups are registered, and include an eclectic sorting of people from the community.
“Anywhere from Madison, dignitaries like the police chief and the fire chief, to dancing groups [participate in the event],” she said.
During the parade and shuffle, the Capitol Square and sections of the university will be blocked off, closing bus routes.
According to Metro spokesperson Mick Rusch, the 80 bus line will detour from Park Street, Observatory Drive and Linden Drive from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m., and will not stop at either the Memorial Union or Humanities Building. The 4 and 6 routes will detour from the 500-600 block of State Street onto Johnson and Gorham Streets until noon.
Rusch also recommends attendees who choose to drink before attending the parade make use of the Metro.
“We always encourage people who have had too much to drink … to leave their cars wherever they are at and ride Metro,” he said.
Sokol said the parade will also include family-friendly activities. In addition to the noontime raising of the Irish flag inside the Capitol rotunda, festival planners will also hold several “Irish contests” beginning at 1 p.m.
“For example, the person with the most freckles, the largest Irish clan — (that is) the largest family that comes in,” Sokol said.
Like the Shamrock Shuffle run, the majority of proceeds from the parade will go to charity, including the University of Wisconsin Paul W. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Coaches vs. Cancer initiative.
Sokol said she hopes the St. Patrick’s Day parade and shuffle not only help illustrate the richness of Wisconsin’s Irish heritage, but also bring residents of all backgrounds together for a day of fun.
“The importance is to have a fun activity that gets everybody away from the hustle and bustle of our daily activities,” Sokol said. “It brings Madison camaraderie.”