You don’t need to be Irish—or a man—to march in the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - The St. Patrick’s Day parade in the Irish Channel is filled with tradition—and with men! But look closely, because there’s one krewe that’s made up of Irish lasses instead of Irishmen.

It’s the first and only women’s club with marching rights in this 60-plus year-old event. They are called the “Daughters of Lir”—the name comes from a Celtic fairytale—and Saturday will be their ninth year of marching with the men.

“It's just a lot of fun,” says one founding member, Erin Ribka. She explains, “The year that you join, you're given the main sash. That main sash corresponds to whatever county we are celebrating the year that you join.”

For each year that follows, members get a swatch that’s sewn on to the main sash, worn as part of the formal parade attire.

Bridget Broadley is the fearless leader of this unique club.

“I definitely have Irish heritage. I was named for my great, great grandmother Bridget Gleason Mulvihill,” says Broadley.

Broadley says it all started around ten years ago, with a conversation over pints of Guinness at Kerry Irish Pub.  A few of her male friends were discussing the upcoming Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade.

She recalls the conversation went something like this:

“They were saying, ‘It’s so much fun, you gotta march in this parade,’ to their guy friends. I said, 'I really want to do that. You guys have so much fun. I really want to be a part of that.' They said, 'You can't.' And I said, 'What do you mean I can't?' They said, 'No, you can't. You're a female. I said, 'Really?'"

She left that pub with a purpose, and Broadley says after a few years of getting “boos” from the men, the guys soon warmed up to the idea—and now they happily welcome the women, who hand out all kinds of fun items such as mini parasols, ceramic medallions and green-and-white garters.

It's a tribute to all things Irish. But you don't have to be Irish to join.

“One of our first little fliers that we put out when we were starting the club said, 'not just Irish need apply,'" remembers Broadley.

“Fionnuala” is the name of the giant swan, which is actually a float, with the all-important job of carrying the keg for the marching ladies.

Look for these Irish lasses and their keg-carrying swan, carrying on their own tradition through the Irish channel.

Here’s an Irish chant you might hear along the route: “Go, Maire Na Mna. Go, Deo... May the women live forever!”



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