Syracuse St. Patrick’s Parade announces 2020 Grand Marshal(s), Gael of the Year

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Syracuse’s 38th St. Patrick’s Parade will set off on March 14th with Co-Grand Marshals John Francis McCarthy and Sean Kirst. The theme of the 2020 St. Patrick’s Parade is “20/20: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.” The theme honors McCarthy and Kirst’s dual legacies as CNY storytellers in their respective mediums. It is also a nod to the proud history of Irish and Irish-American artists. 

Sean Kirst is an award-winning journalist who has been writing in Upstate New York for more than 45 years. A native of Buffalo, NY, Kirst worked at Syracuse newspapers for 27 years, most of that time as a columnist for The Post-Standard. He is the recipient of many journalism awards, including the Ernie Pyle Award, given annually to one American journalist for writing about the dreams and struggles of everyday people. Kirst’s The Soul of Central New York, a collection of stories and observations about greater Syracuse published in 2016, became the fastest-selling book in the 76-year history of the Syracuse University Press. 

John Francis McCarthy is a renowned photographer and Tipperary Hill native. McCarthy’s photography of the Finger Lakes spans five decades; he is particularly well known for his stunning landscape photography in the CNY region and Ireland. McCarthy’s photography has been included in juried shows, museums and other venues including Utah’s Bountiful Art Center, the National Press Club, Washington, D.C, Le Moyne College, Schweinfurth Museum, Auburn, Image City, Rochester and to compliment a visit from Irish writer Frank McCourt in Oswego. In March 2020 through April 5th, John’s Irish images will be on display in Albany’s Repertory Theater during a production of Frank McCourt’s, “The Irish and How They Got That Way.” 

The parade will also recognize John Tumino as Gael of the Year. Tumino is the founder of In My Father’s Kitchen, a nonprofit that assists people who are homeless through direct street outreach. In My Father’s Kitchen launched a new initiative, “Hire Ground,” which is a day labor program that provides people who are homeless with temporary jobs as an alternative to panhandling. 

The parade is embarking on the 13th year of the St. Patrick Hunger Project. The Hunger Project raises funds and collects food for local food pantries to fight hunger in CNY. To date, the Hunger Project has provided over 650,000 meals for children and families in the community. 

The parade will begin at 12 p.m. on March 14, marching through downtown Syracuse along Nancy Duffy Lane (South Salina Street). For more information on the parade, visit www.syracusestpatricksparade.org.

Once again the parade can be seen live on NewsChannel 9.

Applications are being accepted for Rose and Rosebud of Syracuse. Young women between the ages of 17 and 23 and girls 5 to 12 can apply; winners will hold a place of honor in parade festivities. Winners are chosen on the basis of community service. Applications for the Rose of Syracuse are currently open and close on March 2nd. Rosebud application details will be published soon on the parade’s website. Information is available at www.syracusestpatricksparade.org.

Sean Kirst

(Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Sean Kirst has been an Upstate New York journalist for more than 45 years. He held his first reporting job as a teenager and worked for newspapers in Dunkirk, Niagara Falls, Rochester and here in Syracuse, where he spent 27 years – most of them as a columnist with The Post-Standard – before joining The Buffalo News more than three years ago.

He is the recipient of many journalism awards, including the Ernie Pyle Award, given annually to one American journalist for writing about the dreams and struggles of everyday people. He received the national excellence in column writing award from the Society for Professional Journalists, Capitol Beat’s top national award for column writing about state government and was named to the Wall of Distinction by the Syracuse Press Club for lifetime achievement in journalism. For the last three years the New York News Publishers Association, an organization that includes the state’s largest newspapers, has awarded Kirst its distinguished column writing award for his work in Buffalo.

Kirst has also been honored by the federal Department of Justice for sensitivity to victims of violent crime, while the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence gave him its 2019 national media award. He has received honorary degrees from Onondaga Community College and Le Moyne College.

Over the years, Kirst has given many talks – including two TedX presentations – about the importance of storytelling in journalism, especially in a digital age, and he is the author of three books: The Ashes of Lou Gehrig, Moonfixer, and The Soul of Central New York, published in 2016, a collection of stories and observations about greater Syracuse that became the fastest-selling book in the 76-year history of the Syracuse University Press. The England-based Tolkien Society credits Kirst with serving as founder of international Tolkien Reading Day, now celebrated around the world.

In Syracuse, he often wrote about the city’s deep Irish heritage, including tales of the lore surrounding the storied traffic signal on Tipperary Hill and accounts of the legendary Kathleen Hayes Rollins Snavely, who at the time of her death at 113 in 2015 had become the oldest living person ever to be born in Ireland. Kirst and his wife Nora, a city schoolteacher in Syracuse, have three grown children: Sarah, Seamus and Liam.

John Francis McCarthy

John Francis McCarthy, renowned photographer, is a native of Tipperary Hill and the grandson of Irish immigrants from Cork, Tipperary and Clare. In the 1940s, Tipperary Hill had the color and character of an Irish village; sixty square blocks on the city’s far westside bordered by a park, and enclaves from Ukraine, Poland and Italy. John’s grandmother, Katie Donovan, née Burke from Ballyboy Co Tipperary, brought Ireland home to him with recitations from memory of fairy tales, mythological hero tales and poetry.

In the 1960s, after visiting Ireland, it was clear to John why the Irish had settled in the hills and valleys of central New York. John saw neighbors in the faces of the Irish people. He was enchanted by the artful and memorable use of language. In Ireland, John connected the legacy of Bardic Schools to Tipp Hill’s gathering places where storytellers held court; street corners, store fronts, parks, schoolyards and pubs. Ireland’s Bards were forced by Penal Laws to meet in sympathetic estates, cabins and finally, public houses where learning and poetry was shared with the peasantry. Storytelling is Ireland’s greatest gift to the world.

Education was always a priority for John. Perhaps it’s the reason he sampled so many schools; Niagara, Le Moyne, San Jose State, Oregon and Portland State University where he received a degree in history. He has had a varied working life: he worked as an ironworker beside his father, managed a Riverboat Restaurant on the Willamette River in Portland and published a tabloid paper, reported for the North Coast Times Eagle, managed the ski rental shop on Mount Hood and later traded his guitar for a ticket on the last ’60’s flight from Seattle over the North Pole to London.

John’s photography has been included in juried shows, museums and other venues including Utah’s Bountiful Art Center, the National Press Club, Washington, D.C, Le Moyne College, Schweinfurth Museum Auburn, Image City, Rochester and to compliment a visit from Irish writer Frank McCourt in Oswego. John’s first of several books, The Finger Lakes, was commissioned by Oxford University Press, Toronto, in 1982.

In March 2020 through April 5th, John’s Irish images will be on display in Albany’s Repertory Theater during a production of Frank McCourt’s, “The Irish and How They Got That Way.” Photography has taken John to Ireland, Hong Kong and throughout the United States as well as the length and breadth of the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.

John resides in Skaneateles, New York where he opened a gallery several years ago.

Gael of the Year: John Tumino

John Tumino is a first-generation American citizen born to immigrant parents. The oldest of four brothers, he grew up in Syracuse, NY. In 2002, John and his brothers opened Asti Caffe on Syracuse’s Northside. John served as President/Chef of the corporation until 2011 when he and his wife, Leigh-Ann founded In My Father’s Kitchen, a not-for-profit corporation.

In My Father’s Kitchen is a faith-based organization offering non-denominational and non-discriminatory assistance to homeless people through direct street outreach. IMFK outreach staff build relationships with chronically homeless individuals. Through their outreach, staff identify and work to meet the unique needs of homeless people who are not yet ready to leave the streets and who refuse to stay in emergency shelters. As a result, IMFK provides food, clothing, basic necessities and medical/mental health care to homeless individuals where they live on the streets, on a consistent and compassionate basis, until the homeless individual is comfortable accepting help and working with community agencies to secure housing.

If you missed the announcement, you can watch that below:

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