The grand marshal of the fifth annual Lawrence St. Patrick's Day Parade next week will bring firsthand experience about Ireland to the job.
"I've kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland, so I should be ready," said Don McDow, who this week was named grand marshal.
The parade will begin at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Flamingo Club, 501 N. Ninth, and will end in the parking lot of the Jet Lag Lounge, 610 Fla.
McDow, a 62-year-old Lawrence resident who owns a local insurance company, was one of several applicants who wrote letters to the Lawrence St. Patrick's Day parade committee explaining why they wanted to be parade grand marshal. Requirements were that applicants be of Irish ancestry, at least 21 years old and Douglas County residents, said Gene Shaughnessy, parade chairman.
"I have traveled the `Old Sod' in search of information about my ancestors," McDow wrote in his letter. "I've even kissed the Blarney Stone (it worked), and know the legend of the stone. I do, upon occasion, talk with a bit of a brogue, so I feel that I could do the grand marshal's job.''
The legend of the Blarney Stone, located in Blarney Castle near Cork, Ireland, is that it imparts skill in flattery to anyone who kisses it.
As grand marshal, McDow will lead the parade and try to ensure that participants capture the Irish spirit.
"I will just kind of preside over the parade and kiss babies . . . and have a good time," he said.
McDow said he's never participated in the Lawrence St. Patrick's Day parade, nor been a grand marshal in any parade.
"It will be a new experience," he said.
He said he would wear as much green as possible for the parade.
McDow and his wife, Roberta, have visited Ireland and the United Kingdom nine times, he said.
"It was kind of my wife's chiding that got me to write the letter," he said. "She said, `Well, why don't you try to do this, you're about as Irish as anybody.'"
McDow, who is originally from the Kansas City area and moved to Lawrence from Overland Park in 1958, is a member of the local Eagles and Optimist clubs, American Legion, Masonic Lodge and Big Blue Sportsman Club.
He also is a member of the Plymouth Congregational Church and serves as exalted ruler of the local Elks Club.
McDow and his wife have three children, Richard, Suzanne and Deborah.