Friday, March 16, 2007

St. Patrick's Day Massacre!

I was coming back by bus after shooting my Friday TV show at KNBC News in Burbank, when the bus came off the freeway in Chinatown - and stopped dead.

Bumper to bumper traffic in every direction and nothing was moving. By the time I we finally got to the Civic Center I gave up and got out to walk the rest of the way back to my office and while I was doing that, I encountered the St. Patrick's Day parade marching along Main Street; a parade without an audience since with the people in the parade out numbered the people watching the parade by a ratio of about fifty to one.

And it turns out I am not the only one who noticed the disconnect:

Calendar said March, right?
Downtown's day-early St. Patrick's Day Parade draws scant attention, but it does get motorists stewing over street closures.
By Bob Pool
Times Staff Writer

March 17, 2007

Maybe next year they should hold the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Los Angeles' Little Dublin district.

Except the city has no such Irish enclave — which could explain the leprechaun-size turnout for the day-early St. Patrick's Day celebration Friday between Olvera Street and Pershing Square.

Relatively few onlookers were along the nine-block parade route as bagpipers, school bands and vintage police cars and firetrucks made their way along an empty Main Street. Some office workers heading to lunch sauntered across the route without even casting a glance.

Irish eyes were smiling, of course, among true wearers o' the green.

Councilman Tom LaBonge, the parade's chief proponent, covered the route on foot. And he was enthusiastic every step of the way, calling out to acquaintances he spied on the curb.

"This is our eighth annual parade. It's coming back. It's not as big as the Hollywood Boulevard Christmas parade. But we're getting there," LaBonge said. His Irish immigrant grandfather was a Los Angeles police officer from 1919 to 1949.

Just then, an old firetruck passed by, and LaBonge looked up at a man riding on it. "There's the great Sal Castro, who led the 1968 walkout at Lincoln High!" he shouted to a small knot of onlookers. "There's a wonderful relationship between Latinos and the Irish!"

The parade didn't exactly rivet downtown — it was decidedly casual Friday. At some points along the route, office workers came outside to cheer. On 1st Street, many pedestrians seemed oblivious to the marching bands and other fanfare.


"I think if they'd had this parade on Saturday, on actual St. Patrick's Day, they wouldn't have disrupted downtown traffic," Russak said after hanging up. "But on a Saturday, no one would have shown up."

The parade packed plenty of punch for some. By noon it had tied downtown traffic in a giant Celtic knot.

Sections of nine major streets were closed for nearly 90 minutes. "They're not too happy," said a city traffic control officer who funneled eastbound 1st Street motorists traveling from Bunker Hill to Little Tokyo into a zigzagging detour.

For his part, LaBonge remained upbeat at the parade's end.

"By the time we got to 5th Street, it felt like Fifth Avenue in New York. It was lined with people. I'm estimating 5,000 to 7,000 saw the parade." He then acknowledged: "I'm being very generous."

Maybe... 500 to 700 might be more accurate.


He did express disappointment in the traffic snarl and in the large gaps between the marching units.

And he voiced regret over the parade shutting down access to the federal courthouse's Main Street driveway.

"The plan was to keep all the streets open until the parade got to them. We were going to let buses through on Broadway," LaBonge said.

"But they thought it was in the interest of safety to shut down all the streets at 11:30 and reroute the buses."

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