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St. Patrick's Day Festivities In Kansas City Celebrate Immigration And Diversity

Tens of thousands of Kansas Citians are marking St. Patrick’s Day. The festivities started this morning with the annual parade through the city.

The celebrations come on the heels of Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House.  With Trump standing alongside, Kenny reminded the president that St. Patrick was the patron of immigrants. 

Mayor Sly James echoed those words today alongside the parade route at Kansas City’s Irish Center.

“This is a day where immigration and immigrants and people who came to this country really should be honored and it’s a lesson for this entire country right now,” said James.

“We are a melting pot and we would not be as neat of a stew if it weren’t for the chunks of Irish, the chunks of Italian, the chunks of British, the chunks of African, the chunks of everybody in that stew,” he explained.

The Center marked the occasion, and its 10th anniversary, with a flag raising of both the American and Irish flags. Nancy Wormington, executive director for the Center, also impressed the importance of recognizing immigration.

“I think particularly in these political times recognizing the importance of immigrants because we wouldn’t have St. Patrick’s Day if the Irish hadn’t settled in America as immigrants and really as refugees," says Wormington.

Adrian Farrell, Ireland’s Consul General based in Austin, Texas attended the flag raising and his first parade in Kansas City Friday.  He said that while many cities in the United States weren’t very welcoming to Irish immigrants when they first arrived in the 19th century, through hard work and education, the Irish have really made their mark in cities like Kansas City.

“It’s a day where it’s great to be Irish but it’s a day also of inclusivity,” Farrell says.

Farrell added that there could be as many as 50,000 undocumented Irish nationals living in the United States. 

“I think there’s always concern [about them] so we need to try and work on helping them regularize their situations," he says.

But the key thing today, he says, is for everyone to celebrate diversity in a fun atmosphere.

St. Patrick's Day is also worth a lot to the Kansas City economy. The National Retail Federation estimates that U.S. consumers will spend more than five billion dollars celebrating.

Danny Wood is a freelancer for KCUR 89.3.

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