Family fun is the theme at Detroit St. Patrick's Parade on March 11

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This Sunday's annual Detroit St. Patrick's Parade in Corktown is going to have a new family friendly theme.

The piping, the marching, the wearing of the green, the walking around dressed like a clown with an open container - they were all time-honored traditions of the parade -- until now.

"The police are going to have a patrol moving around and keeping an eye out for the fools," said Mike Kelly. The people who are drinking out of bottles and the people that are stumbling and the people with nasty T-shirts on."

That's Mike Kelly, president of the United Irish Societies and one of hundreds of men named Mike Kelly who will be marching down Michigan Avenue.

Kelly is co-chairman of the Detroit St. Patrick's Parade and he likes a good time just like anyone. But he also wants people to remember what the parade is all about.

"This isn't a Mardi Gras," Kelly said. "Again, we have the parade to celebrate our Irish heritage and our traditions, and sure we all enjoy coming down and having a good time. And it's not about taking the fun out of the parade, but it's about being respectable so that you can stand next to my family and have a few pops or a few beers and you're not a fool."

That's one reason parade organizers created a new element this year: The Family Fun Zone. 

"Alcohol-free, tobacco-free area right off the front of the parade route and of course our favorite friend will be mc-ing that, which will be (ML Elrick), God love you.  Paul W. Smith will be at the main reviewing stand; you're going to have the Fun Zone.

If nothing else, my involvement in the parade means at least one fool will be tolerated. But this isn't just about having a good time, it's about doing good.

The parade has a raft of new benefactors, and organizers will donate a big chunk of the take to three charities.

"We've earmarked 20 percent," Kelly said.

Now that we've covered the benevolence and warned the beasts, it's time to hear from the beauties.

Taylor Bauchan is queen of the United Irish Societies and, no, she didn't get that title because the lady of the lake or in this case, the Detroit River, coughed up some big freaking sword.

"There's a competition, and young women came out and they were judged on their poise, and their personality, the way they communicated and their knowledge of Irish history," she said.

Of course, no queen would be complete without her court and, of course, that court will observe, well, courtly etiquette when mingling with the huddled masses.

Everything you need to know for the parade:

Festivities begin at 9 a.m. Sunday, March 11 with mass at Most Holy Trinity in Corktown - unless you are running in the Corktown Races which begin at 9:30. 

The Family Fun Zone begins at 10:30

The parade starts at 12:30 p.m. on Michigan Avenue and 6th Street, continuing down to 14th Street.

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