Onetime ‘culchie’ reigns as Shawnee parade marshal
Mary Brayton took her family for a quick drive down Johnson Drive Sunday morning for a sneak preview of this year's St. Patrick's Day parade entries.
As this year's grand marshal, the Ireland native was ready to get a quick look at the floats, bands and other entries she would lead as one of the first of the 85 or so entrants to come down the parade route.
"Look at those cute little cars!" she said to those who would ride with her in the parade: her grandchildren, Quinn and Sydney Eisele, who live in Overland Park, and her sister, Julie Sheridan, who came from Ireland with her daughter for the parade. "There's the tractor -- look at that John Deere tractor. It's my favorite."
It's no surprise that a tractor would be the favorite of an Irish farm girl who proudly put the word "Culchie" on her car's personalized license plate. The Gaelic word means country girl or boy, and while the Irish use the word like "hick" or "bumpkin" is used in America, Brayton said the license plate is all in good fun.
Brayton grew up in the Irish countryside in County Mayo, one of 11 children in her family. In the late 1960s she came to America to live with relatives and go to high school. Brayton moved to Germany for a few years and then came back to America in 1979, but she has remained true to her roots.
"Mary always came back to Ireland -- she always kept the Irish bonds strong," her sister said. "Her children and grandchildren are very much a part of the Irish family."
In the early 1980s, Brayton was driving down Johnson Drive when she saw a sign for Tom Paddy Walsh's, formerly located where Margarita's is now.
"I thought, 'Well, that sounds like an Irish Pub,' so I stopped and went inside," she said.
There she found then Shawnee Mayor Tony Soetaert and others, all discussing the possibility of creating an Irish-American Club, since Shawnee had a sister city in Listowel, Ireland.
It was because of her involvement in the club's founding, and her help with the parade ever since the club took over its organization, that the club voted her to be the 2007 parade grand marshal.
"She is actually a true Irish person," said Dennis Busby, club president. "Anytime the Irish Club does something, Mary's there doing it. She's always involved in any activity we do. And she gives us some tips on the culture of Ireland."
In the past, Brayton's role has been to help organize the judges, the club's float and the Irish reception, held the Friday before the parade to recognize any visitors from Listowell and the club's "Irishmen of the Year." This year's honorees were J.J. Miller, Heather Kachur and Mike Shannon.
Not that helping out with the annual festivities is too much work in the first place.
"This is the kind of parade where it just comes together," Brayton remarked as she passed all the entrants lined up on Johnson Drive. "No stress."
Sunday proved to be a day for extra Irish pride, as Ireland's rugby team narrowly beat Scotland to win the Triple Crown in the Six Nations Championship the day before.
Brayton's grand marshal title also allowed her to get a front row view at the Duck Race. After Margot Bobien, granddaughter of original duck dumper Joe Magyar, let the first bags of ducks loose in Turkey Creek, Brayton got a chance to dump some ducks as well.
The winners of the duck race were Bob Read, Ron Wosel, John Hartman, M-B Services, Jay Shultz, Amos Family Funeral Home, Vielhauer Plumbing, Reynolds Lawn & Liesure, Weaver's Auto Center, Town & Country Sheet Metal, Teresa Grundy, Danally's Bar & Grill, Judy Sims, Jim Byrnes, Bernice Herpic and Elizabeth Maclaughlin.
The owner of the First Duck across the finish line was Bob Read with Duck No. 231. He will get to choose either $1,500 Cash or round trip airfare for two to one of the three Shawnee Sister Cities: Pittem, West Flanders, Belgium; Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland; or Erfurt, Thuringia, Germany.
Elizabeth Maclaughlin was the unfortunate owner of the "Dead Last Duck" across the finish line and will receive a prize for her duck's non-performance.
The other winners get their choice of these other prizes donated from area merchants: a Brinkman Meat Smoker from Westlake Hardware; gift certificates from Central Harley-Davidson, Court of Appeals, Jake's Place, Old Shawnee Pizza, The Peanut or Target Stores; free haircuts from Terri's Hairstyling and Between U & NYC; a half-hour private plane ride from Firefighter Kevin Vining; a 150-mile Harley Ride from Firefighter Joan Moore; a Solar-Powered Address Lighting System from Solar Accents; or a discount on a veterinary procedure from Family Pet Hospital of Shawnee.
Here are the prize-winning entries from Sunday's St. Patrick's Day Parade:
- Best Kids -- St. Joe Brownies
- Group of Vehicles -- Central Midwest Hog Chapter
- Classic Vehicle -- Golden Oldies Classic Chevy Club
- Family -- Garrity Clan
- Non Business -- Nifty Over Fifty Red Hat Club
- Business -- Cutting Edge Hair Styling Academy
- Best Music -- St. Andrews Bag Pipes
- "We Tried" -- Fox Collision
- Tim Roche Spirit Award -- Sister Cities Duck Float
- Best Showing of the Green -- Swanson Streamway Dog Park & Daycare
- Best Overall -- O'48th Terrace Clan