History of The Society

History of the Society

The St. Patrick Society of Peoria was founded in January 1980 in downtown Peoria by Jack Cassidy, Ed Dwyer, Bob Mahoney, Bill O’Connell, and Richard Parsons who are referred to as the “Founders.”  To accomplish its stated purpose, “to perpetuate the heritage and history of the Irish people and to promote their ideal, traditions, and culture,” the Society sponsors a minimum of two events each year, St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Party, and the Peoria Irish Fest, originally named Erin Feis, at the end of August.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Party is always held on March 17th, rain, shine, or snow. Sometimes all three. Every year we choose two members of our community to be honored as Irish Mother of the Year, and Grand Marshall.  Awards are presented at the annual party for Business Entries, Family Entries, and Organization Entries. The parade winds through the streets of Downtown Peoria and ends at the Gateway Building at the Peoria Riverfront, current home of our annual post-parade party.  This event is family friendly and is a great place for people of all ages whether you come alone or part of a large family (Irish Clans) to meet and enjoy Irish music, Irish dance and Irish refreshments.

The last weekend in August every year, St. Patrick Society of Peoria partners with the Peoria Park District to host the Peoria Irish Fest on the Peoria RiverFront.  Over the years, Peoria Irish Fest (Erin Feis) has grown from a Sunday afternoon picnic to a 3-Day Irish Festival.  Although the venue has changed and the scope of activities and entertainmet has grown exponentially since that first picnic, we still provide a time and place for friends and families to join together and share their interest in Irish traditions.

The first day of Peoria Irish Fest is called “The Gathering,” the second is “The Day,” and last is “The Scattering.”  During the three days of the event, attendees can enjoy a variety of musicians from around Peoria, the country, or the world, playing both traditional and more modern Irish music, Irish dancers from a variety of Irish Dance Schools, and learn more about Irish traditions in our Cultural Village or Performing Arts stage.

Also featured during the festival, an Ancient Athletic sporting competition is conducted featuring the Sheaf Toss, Caber Toss, Stone Put, Hammer Throw, Braemar Stone/Open Stone—heavy weight for distance and light weight for distance.

On Sunday, attendees can participate in a Catholic Mass or a Celtic Worship Service where canned goods are collected for local food pantries.

From time to time the St. Patrick Society of Peoria sponsors other events that “perpetuate the heritage and history of the Irish people and to promote their ideals, traditions, and culture.”  These additional events can be seen by clicking on the “Events” button on our menu.