The mood was joyful at the Hotel Utica as the ceremonial St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh was passed from last year's Grand Marshall, Pat Costello, to this year's Grand Marshall, Fire Chief Russ Brooks.

Brooks accepted the ceremonial shillelagh last night with several generations of his family watching, including his mother.

"She really has had the Irish culture, she's lived it and passed it on," Brooks said. "It just means so much to me and to her, you know, for me to get this opportunity. It's a family opportunity."

Costello said Brooks was a perfect candidate to lead this year's parade.

"He's a great recipient," Costello said. "He's a good friend of mine, and a great Irishman. It's great that his mom was here to see it at 92 years old. She couldn't be more proud of her son... rightfully so."

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

Shawn Corrigan, whose father Bill is a former Grand Marshall, says the honor is not just awarded to someone. Recipients have to show dedication to their heritage.

"If the people have chosen him to be Grand Marshall, then there's a lot of qualities he must have," Corrigan said. "He must have a lot of respect for the people that he's with. He must be a family oriented person, and he must be focused on that Irish heritage... they're really focused on passing on the good times and not just keeping it for themselves."

But for Brooks, the days leading up to March 17th are not about wearing green and talking about luck. It's about celebrating a vibrant culture within our community.

"A lot of people celebrate St. Patrick's like it's an office party," Brooks said. "But the people here -the real Irish- will celebrate it like it's Christmas Eve. We will honor St. Patrick and we will not be calling him 'St. Patty.'"

Last night's event marks the beginning of this week's festivities which include an Irish flag raising at City Hall on Wednesday and the painting of a green stripe on Genesee Street this Friday. Festivities conclude with a Saturday morning parade down Genesee Street, starting at 10.