Above / Among official responsibilities, Parade Grand Marshal John Drohan of the WSI St. Patrick’s Parade demonstrated the proper way to pour a Guinness on tap at Quigley’s Irish Pub. (Photo courtesy WSI)
Forty-year Naperville resident John Drohan can barely hold back his pride as he anticipates serving as Grand Marshal in the 2023 West Suburban Irish St. Patrick’s Parade. Celebrating fun, frolic as well as the richness and variety of Irish lore will come to life during the parade that steps off at 10AM Sat., March 11, in downtown Naperville.
Earlier this week, Drohan presided during the annual Irish Mass, held this year at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church. After the mass, he joined many churchgoers at Quigley’s Irish Pub for a cold beverage and Irish soda bread.
For more than 27 years, Drohan has been a member of the West Suburban Irish and he recalls the first float he ever designed for the parade.
“I entered the first float in the St. Patrick’s Day parade over 26 years ago,” Drohan said. “The float consisted of an old dining room table sitting on a flat hay wagon and seven people sitting around it drinking what appeared to be Guinness. Since then, I’ve entered a float in every parade and the last 22 years they have been designated for Quigley’s Irish Pub.”
Drohan is pleased to note that over the years, his floats have been awarded seven times among the outstanding entries.
Irish roots and a face at Quigley’s
John Drohan and his wife, Kevin Ann, have three children and six grandchildren.
“I worked 35 years with the Campbell Soup Company on the East Coast and retired here while working for Campbell’s, running the frozen food operation in the Midwest,” John Drohan said. “After retiring I became executive director of the Midwest Frozen Food Association.”
“I made a point to take each of my children—two daughters and a son— on an individual basis to tour Ireland with me,” Drohan noted.
During the construction of Quigley’s Irish Pub in the historic mansion on Jefferson Hill, Drohan became one of its early fixtures.
“Before the Pub opened I went to Ireland and spent some time at Guinness Brewery in Dublin, learning the proper way to pour and serve Irish beers.”
In Dublin, he also met with the designers and engineers of Quigley’s Irish Pub to participate in photo opportunities of the design and layout of the exact pub they were going to install in Naperville. The entire interior of Quigley’s was built in County Wexford Ireland and then shipped to the United States, he explained.
“When the Pub opened, I became a bartender and soon after was designated Quigley’s ‘Good Will Ambassador’ to design, organize and run special events,” Drohan said.
Drohan has been working and associated with the Pub ever since where he’s helped to plan golf outings, trips to Ireland, Photos with Santa and the Leprechaun and Irish Coffee competitions, said owner Nancy Quigley.
Recently Mary Corrigan, another active member of the WSI recalled being among the first Irish Coffee Competition judges. “John had a great idea to include other local restaurants in the competition. For many years, the competition attracted all different types of Irish coffee. What fun!”
Honored to serve NEMA
“Ten years ago I joined the Naperville Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as a volunteer and worked my way up to serve as an officer,” Drohan said. “The squad I was in charge of supplied ground support to Naperville Fire Department and Police Department 24 hours a day on emergency call outs.”
Drohan has many lasting memories of volunteering with his uniformed squad to supply traffic control, overhead lighting at accident sites, building fires and search-and-rescue operations.
“We also replenished the air tanks on the fire fighters back when they became low or empty during firefighting operations.”
Drohan noted the honor he received when he retired from that NEMA position in 2016.
“I served 10 years, retiring in 2016, and was presented with a special service award at the CAPS (Citizens Appreciate Public Safety) dinner at Meson Sabika.
More Memories of Ireland
John Drohan recalls working on his uncle’s farm in County Waterford Ireland between his junior and senior year of college where he was taught by the Irish Christian Brothers.
“I cut the peat out of the peat bogs to be burnt in the fire places,” Drohan said. “To me the most unusual thing about the farm house i lived in was the entire floor in the kitchen was a dirt floor but very clean and spotless.”
Drohan remembers awakening at 5AM every morning to milk the cows.
“And for a few hours several nights a week, I would visit the pubs with my uncles before it was time to bring the cows in for milking,” Drohan added. “My parents wanted me to experience how hard my ancestors worked to earn a living.”
To date, Drohan has traveled to Ireland on 15 different occasions, touring the entire county and visiting most of the historical places for which Ireland is famous while also visiting his relatives.
“Five of those trips where when I ran guided tours of Ireland sponsored by Quigley’s Irish Pub,” Drohan said.
Drohan continued with fond memories of other visits to the Emerald Isle, both as Quigley’s Goodwill Ambassador and president of the Celtic Whiskey Club.
“After becoming president of the Midwest Celtic Whiskey Club, a couple of my associates and I had the opportunity of becoming the invited guests of John Teeling to the Teeling Distillery in Dublin, Ireland,” Drohan said. “John Teeling was the founder in 1987 and former Chairman of Cooley Distillery in Ireland. Teeling also is a famous historian in the Irish Whiskey business. He has 46 years of resources experience as well as extensive industrial experience in Ireland.”
“My family is extremely proud of my being honored as the Grand Marshal in this year’s parade due to my strong Irish background and the fact that both my parents were born in Ireland,” Drohan added.
Editor’s Note / Additional photos may be added after the 2023 St. Patrick’s Parade.