- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2000

An old piece of Irish wit, "May the wind be at your back," was amusing yesterday only if you had two of everything on during the chilly St. Patrick's Day Parade that made its way down Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C.
Irish flags whipped in the wind on lampposts along the avenue as floats, fire engines, Irish dancers and enough dignitaries to make a toothpaste commercial went past cheering spectators who had turned out for the 29th annual parade in the District.
The brisk March day tailor-made for Irish coffee didn't keep away many family and friends eager to celebrate their heritage.
"It's mainly a social gathering. It's a reunion," said Laura Sheahan, 28, from Arlington, Va., who displayed her fervor with a Shamrock sun visor. Ms. Sheahan's clan uses the parade as a gathering point for the 15 or so family members in the area. They generally see each other only at funerals and at the parade.
She recently completed her doctorate in molecular chemistry, and may spend the next few days working on a formula for green beer. Ms. Sheahan just returned from celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but she wouldn't miss this celebration. She even got a reporter in the spirit by giving him some green Mardi Gras beads.
"We're an Irish family," she said. "One of our uncles even paints his beard green."
The Sheahans are into family and their Irish heritage about 200 members of the clan are heading to Kenmare, Ireland, this summer. And Ms. Sheahan said the family welcomes anyone else who wants to join them.
"We've been coming here for 25 years, standing in the same spot," said Steve Connor, a Bell Atlantic systems manager from Hyattsville, Md., who was standing with his family near 15th Street. "It's a tradition."
Mr. Connor watched this year's parade with a little more pride because his daughter was dancing in it with the Caulkin School from Silver Spring, Md. But, beyond blood relation, everyone seemed to know everyone else up and down the parade route.
Mr. Connor waved to his old friend, U.S. Park Police Officer Jerry Harrington, who rode his horse down the street, just as he has for more than 20 years.
About a block down, John Coe, a county police officer from Olney was watching his 25th parade. He knew both Officer Harrington and Mr. Connor.
"We grew up together," Officer Harrington said. "In my neighborhood, you were either a cop or a robber. We came down on the good side."

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