On a day when most everyone considers themselves Irish, St. Clair County's public square was host to a St. Patrick's Day celebration, now 25 years strong.
With cooperation from the weather, green clad celebrants were able to get out and enjoy the sun and express their Irish pride. While not as big as its cousin in the city of St. Louis, about 100 people still turned out for the Irish revelry in the heart of Belleville.
Featuring traditional Irish bagpipe music, green carnations and plenty of "kiss me I'm Irish" buttons, the day is a chance to celebrate the deep Irish roots of the Metro East, according to St. Clair County Chief Circuit Judge John Baricevic.
"It's a good celebration of local heritage started 25 years ago," he said. "The Irish roots on the east of St. Louis are still deep."
Brendan Kelly, St. Clair County Circuit Clerk, was among the crowd of public officials and was pleased to see so many people celebrating St. Patrick's Day.
"As a proud Irish-American, I think it's a great thing that we have the celebration at the courthouse," he said. "Even the politicians who aren't Irish like to participate."
For Kelly, the excitement of the day is about more than just wearing green.
"Just seeing everybody socializing before the celebration began was great," he said. "I like the social part of the celebration most."
Despite the social atmosphere, Kelly said St. Patrick's Day celebrations such as the one held at the courthouse are important to remind those of Irish descent of their heritage and their contributions.
"I think it's amazing to see how many people of Irish descent are involved in public service," he said. "My great-great-grandfather came to America through Boston then moved his family to New York City."
Kelly, whose ties to the New York City Irish community include two family members who served with police and fire departments, said he is amazed at how Irish-Americans have become such an important part of American culture.
"When you think of where the Irish came from, what they had to endure, from not being able to vote, to famine, it's great," he said. "I think Irish-Americans are particularly American. It's great to see so many of them doing well, not just by making money, and serving."
Ultimately, St. Patrick's Day is about sharing Irish heritage with others, Kelly said.
"I was standing right next to Judge Andy Gleeson and we both went to (the University of) Notre Dame," he said. "So we love the St. Patrick's day celebration, not just because we're Irish, but because of the Fighting Irish."
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