After more than two decades, the Shamrock Club of Columbus will celebrate its last Irish Family Reunion at Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
The facility, 300 W. Broad St., will be razed this year and replaced with a memorial that will not have accommodations for events such as the reunion.
As part of St. Patrick's Day festivities March 17, the reunion brings together upwards of 10,000 people, more when the holiday falls on the weekends, said Mike Murphy, the Shamrock Club's 2014 president.
"I want it to be a fun celebration of our Irish heritage," Murphy said.
"We certainly give our thanks to the people of Vets for all of their help over the years. We'd like to dwell on the positives."
Just precisely when the reunion started being held at Veterans Memorial isn't quite certain. Some say more than 30 years ago while others say 25.
Francis Doyle, a member of the Shamrock Club since 1969, said members used to celebrate the post-parade lunch at hotels throughout downtown Columbus. But in the mid-1980s, the club opened membership to all comers, and the reunions were established in the late 1980s at Vets to hold the larger crowds, Doyle said.
It's been held there ever since, save for two or three years in the early 1990s when the Broad Street Bridge over the Scioto River was being rebuilt.
The Shamrock Club pays all expenses for holding the parade in downtown Columbus and to use Veterans Memorial.
The 2014 St. Patrick's Day celebration begins at 9:15 a.m. with a procession from Rich Street and Grant Avenue downtown to Mass, which starts at 9:30 a.m. at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 204 S. Fifth St.
The parade steps off at 11:30 a.m. at Neil Avenue and Nationwide Boulevard in the Arena District. The parade will travel east on Nationwide to High Street, south on High to Broad Street and west on Broad to Veterans Memorial.
The reunion -- which includes live music, Irish stepdancing, children's activities and merchandise vendors -- will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Ceremonies begin at 1 p.m.
Admission to the event is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at the club's headquarters, 60 W. Castle Road. It will be a party with food available at concession stands, beverages and entertainment.
Keeping with tradition, people can also bring their own food, Murphy said. A separate party, from 5 p.m. to about midnight, will be held March 17 at the Shamrock Club, 60 W. Castle Road. Admission is $5.
The Shamrock Club, which has 2,400 members, is one of many local organizations that will be forced to find a new place to celebrate when Vets is closed for demolition this spring.
Murphy said tentative plans call for moving the reunion to the Ohio Expo Center.
"We are really striving to keep it in the downtown area," Murphy said, noting there are few options that can accommodate a crowd of 10,000.
Doyle, this year's parade grand marshal, said it's truly the end of an era.
"It's just a shame," he said. "I don't know exactly what will happen next year.
"Where the family reunion will be held is up in the air right now."