Despite cheers from a crowd to continue, the 2-year-old’s mother gathered her up and returned her to her chair. The girl had joined a group of traditional Irish dancers from Athens who were performing for the nearly 250 in attendance for the annual Irish Gathering in Marietta.
“She has a little Irish in her,” said Adelle’s mother, Heather Fleak, of Parkersburg.
Even if she wasn’t Irish, Chip Rogers, a long-standing member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, said he was proud of how the girl danced. Besides, he said, everyone loves an Irish celebration.
“We’re here to celebrate our heritage and to preserve our arts, music, foods and spirits,” Rogers said.
The annual event has been celebrated locally for the past 27 years.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians is an Irish Catholic men’s organization with the goal of preserving Irish culture and heritage in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Many Irish families settled in Washington County in the early 1800s as construction began on the Marietta, Columbus and Cleveland Railroad.
In addition to dance, the Sunday gathering featured a feast of shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, potatoes and Waldorf salad.
“The kids have really enjoyed themselves, and that’s what is important,” Heather Fleak said.
Some 34 million people claim Irish heritage, which is 10 times the population of Ireland. Though St. Patrick’s Day is often used as an excuse to indulge, the holiday has strong religious ties. The leaves of the shamrock are used to represent the Holy Trinity and the holiday itself is in honor of both Irish heritage and St. Patrick, Rogers said.
Sunday’s event also honored two local Hibernians who died last year. Those members were David Barrett and Clarence “Bud” Merritt, Rogers said.
BRAD BAUER The Marietta Times
Adelle Fleak, 2, of Parkersburg, joins in a dance Sunday at the Lafayette Hotel during the Annual Irish Gathering.