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Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, close to home

A scene from last year’s Scituate St. Patrick’s Parade. This year’s parade steps off Sunday at 1 p.m. from Gates Junior High on First Parish Road.

Edward Kelly

A scene from last year’s Scituate St. Patrick’s Parade. This year’s parade steps off Sunday at 1 p.m. from Gates Junior High on First Parish Road.

This weekend, Quincy is the Emerald City. Then again, so are Weymouth and Hingham, and Scituate and Abington.

Many communities south of Boston are expressing their Irish-American identity in many ways on St. Patrick’s Day, including road racing and Gaelic sports, parades, and family and cultural activities at places such as the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton.

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St. Patrick’s Day is also a day to celebrate the journeys made by people such as Weymouth Mayor Sue (Sullivan) Kay and Edward Kelly, the organizer of the annual Scituate St. Patrick’s Parade, which steps off Sunday at 1 p.m. from Gates Junior High on First Parish Road.

Kelly and Kay have trod a path familiar to many who will be celebrating this holiday.

“My father grew up in Dorchester and then moved to Weymouth,” said Kelly. “I grew up in Weymouth, and 30 years ago I moved to Scituate.”

Kay, a proud daughter of South Boston, says Southie expatriates and OFDs — “originally from Dorchester” — are very comfortable now in their new homes in the south suburbs.

“In many ways, the Weymouth of today is like the South Boston I grew up in,” said Kay. “It’s a close-knit place, and the accent is on families, much as it was back then.”

Kay said she and many of her constituents “have a shared past: What street did you grow up on? What was your parish?”

Those are common questions in many other places south of South Boston, which are among the most Irish-American in the country.

According to the 2005-2009 American Community Survey, done as part of the 2010 US Census, Scituate is the most Irish-American community in America, with 47.5 percent of residents of Irish descent. Nineteen of the 20 communities with the most Irish-American representation in Massachusetts are south of Boston, with Scituate followed by Braintree, Hull, Marshfield, Avon, Pembroke, and Milton, all of which have 44 percent or more of residents of Irish descent.

And Quincy is, at 34 percent, still the most Irish-American city in the United States.

On Sunday, traditional Irish music will ring out in such places as the venerable Beachcomber Pub on Quincy Shore Drive, which will be celebrating its 54th St. Patrick’s Day.

For Pat McGettrick, son of the pub’s late owner and founder, Jimmy McGettrick, almost every face coming through the door will be familiar.

“We’ve always considered St. Patrick’s Day to be the anniversary of the bar, so we have no cover charge,” he said. “We don’t charge for being Irish.”

He plans two bands, a DJ, Irish step dancers, a bagpiper, and another musician to keep things going from noon to 1 a.m., with 125 pounds of corned beef going out from the kitchen.

The planning for the holiday typically begins nine months before.

“It’s New Year’s Eve for Irish bands. If you wait until November, you’ll either pay through the nose or you won’t get a band at all,” said McGettrick.

It’s the same in Hingham Square, where owners Ed and Ellen Brown are capping off a weekend celebration at The Snug, where The Lindsays from Dublin and The Geese in the Bog will perform from 11:30 a.m. until closing.

“We started planning six months ago,” said Ed Brown, who expects to move 300 pounds of corned beef during the pub’s 11th St. Pat’s celebration.

Jack Bailey, the organizer of the 34th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Abington — you’ll recognize him as St. Patrick in the parade, which steps off at 1 p.m. in St. Patrick’s Square at the corner of Orange and Washington Streets — gave a peek into the work that goes into setting the marching order for the many elements in the parade.

“We have 11 bands, including four bagpipe bands, and there’s no way I want a band on top of another band,” he said. “We’re paying for these bands, and we want people to hear them.”

Then there’s the issue of where the politicians should fit in, with a white-hot special election for the US Senate underway and both Democratic candidates, US Representatives Ed Markey and Steve Lynch, expected to attend.

“The already elected politicians can be in the front, but the candidates in current races have to be in the back because they’ll slow things down with their signs and handouts,” said Bailey. “This way, they can take their time.”

In Canton at 10 a.m., the first annual Irish Cultural Centre of New England 5K Road Race will step off from the center at 200 New Boston Drive.

Louise O’Shea, director of programming at the center, said the road race held by the organization last June at its annual festival was such a success, it decided to add another.

She said the family aspect of the holiday is well-represented, with an Irish breakfast, a traditional corned beef and cabbage luncheon, entertainment for both children and adults, broadcasts of Gaelic Athletic Association games from Ireland, and balloon animals, face painting, and storytelling for children.

In Scituate, the 2.3-mile parade should provide a welcome respite from the seemingly endless string of storms that has battered the seaside community this winter.

Kelly, who led the effort to raise the $50,000 needed for the parade, expects to draw 20,000 people or more, with special arrangements for parking and moving folks around. Information is available at www.weloveaparade.com.

Kelly said residents of his town, still clearing fallen trees and other debris from the storms, can use a pleasant diversion.

“This year, we really, really need a parade,” he said.

Rich Fahey can be reached at fahey.­rich2@gmail.com.
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