Boston may be number one when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day spirit – the city’s fabled NBA franchise is named the Celtics whose symbol is a shamrock, after all – but Pittsburgh and Philadelphia aren’t far behind. In fact, Pennsylvania’s two largest cities finished third and fourth on our national chart of most passionate St. Patrick's Day cities.
In Pittsburgh, the city’s Irish population is between 11% and 16% depending on who’s doing the counting, and is believed to have the country’s second-largest population of citizens with Irish ancestry – Philadelphia is third. In addition to its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which generally has over 20,000 participants, Pittsburgh also hosts an Irish Festival and a Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day Festival.
As you can tell, we took a break from Pennsylvania sports betting to measure U.S. cities' passion for March 17, aka St. Patrick's Day.
When the Irish began immigrating to the U.S. in the mid-1800s following the Great Potato Famine, they came to the port cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia, but a large number headed west to Pittsburgh. Originally, they were not especially welcome, facing the bigotry often found by newcomers. They got the worst jobs at the lowest pay.
But over the next generation or two, the Irish began to assert themselves in the City of Bridges, becoming leaders in the church, city politics and the arts. Art Rooney founded the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Gene Kelly became one of the biggest movie stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Philadelphia also has a fair amount of Irish roots, but its surrounding counties now have a higher percentage of Irish ancestry, according to the Census. The Irish have been in Philadelphia since before the American Revolution and didn’t have quite as rough a go of it as in Pittsburgh, because the city’s Quaker founders were a more tolerant group when it came to other ethnicities and religions.
Irishman James Logan was the city’s 14th mayor in 1722. Logan was also a founding trustee of the College of Philadelphia, which in 1740 became the University of Pennsylvania.
The city’s embrace of the Irish didn’t last, however, and the anti-Irish sentiment in the mid-1800s led to riots.
But that too passed, and the Philadelphia Irish began to rise in the clergy, police, and fire departments. They founded St. Joseph’s University, and La Salle, and Villanova. The city’s most prominent Irish family was led by Olympic gold medalist John B. Kelly.
Kelly became a prominent businessman in construction and dabbled in politics, overseeing the city’s parks and was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Director of Physical Fitness. His brother Walter starred in vaudeville and his brother George was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. His daughter was the famous actress, Grace Kelly, who became Princess Grace of Monaco.
Philadelphia’s Irish are an important contributor to the city’s Mummer’s Parade and tradition, with a number of Irish-themed bands. On television, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is centered around the Irish bar, Paddy’s Pub.
This year’s Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held March 12, featured over 200 groups. It is believed to be the second oldest such parade in the country behind New York. The first Philadelphia parade was allegedly held in 1771.
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With St. Patrick’s Day coming on March 17, we decided to look at the states that have the most St. Patrick’s Day spirit in 2023. PennStakes.com utilized Google Trends to see the search volume in each of the U.S. metros for terms like “St. Patrick’s Day,” “St. Patrick’s Day Events,” etc. Once receiving the results, we averaged out the ranking across the terms. We also used World Population Review’s research on the “Cities with Highest Percentage of Irish Ancestry” from 2023 to average out the rankings.
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