SEATTLE — It’s estimated that roughly 10% of the population in Washington state identify as Irish for their primary heritage. That’s just shy of 800,000 people who celebrate more than just green beer and music on March 17.
The Irish Heritage Club of Seattle hosts a week of festivities but also has a unique yearslong partnership with one of Ireland's largest cities. Galway, Ireland is known as the festival capital of the country and hosts on average 122 festivals a year.
Seattle and Galway formalized a sister city partnership in 1986. The Seattle Galway Sister City Association works with the University of Washington and University College Galway for student exchange programs and the mayor of Galway is a regular visitor. Mayor Clodagh Higgins spent several days in Seattle this year and was a special guest at the parade and joined guests on a Lake Union boat tour.
“She saw plenty of Seattle by the time she left,” said John Keane, honorary consul of Ireland.
One of the most visible symbols of the relationship sits in prominent locations in each city. In 1993, the City of Galway unveiled a monument celebrating its sister city that contains a bronze marker that features the geophysical data of Seattle and points directly to the Emerald City more than 4,400 miles away.
In the year 2000, the City of Seattle unveiled its own waterfront marker that sits across from pier 66. There’s a description of the sister city program in two languages and the stone points directly at Galway through the center of the earth.
The Irish Heritage Club is a nonprofit and celebrates an entire week that culminates on March 17. John Keane says the week features everything from a kid's Irish drawing contest, an Irish Soda bread contest, the Mayor's Irish Week Proclamation Luncheon and the annual St. Patrick's Day Dash.
A green stripe was ceremoniously painted along Fourth Avenue in Seattle to mark the route of the parade and Mass for Peace was held at St John’s Church in Seattle on St. Patrick's Day. Keane says everyone has the opportunity to be Irish on March 17 and encourages anyone interested in joining the fun to visit the Irish Heritage Club website.
The Seattle Galway stone is located at 2112 Alaskan Way across from Pier 66. It’s currently fenced off for nearby construction but is still visible from the sidewalk.