It is 8a.m. and barricades are lining the streets.
Chairs have been unfolded.
Sidewalks are more than jam-packed.
People watching is the thing to do, after finally finding a place to park and snagging a spot on the sidewalk of course. A decent spot is vital when watching collections of green shirts, floats, and a few Clydesdales go by.
Savannah, GA is home to historical Civil War sites, ghost tours, antebellum architecture, and the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States. More than 300,000 people travel from all over the world to enjoy this event. Dressed head to toe in green garments, they all swarm to celebrate one thing — the patron saint of Ireland.
Cool morning air from the river and the sweltering sun shining down creates the perfect weather. Crowds are joyfully full of anticipation of the day’s events. Ryan Nance, a Freshman at UGA enjoyed the irregular rain that came across the skies, explaining “the rain added to the atmosphere, as you were forced under a stranger’s tent. It was just another way to meet people and hang out.” Nance said he attends the parade every year, accompanied by his family and close friends.
The parade was scheduled to run from 10:15a.m. until 2:30p.m. but the streets were crowded as early as 7:30 that morning and stayed that way until late into the evening.
Among the attendees was Vice President Mike Pence. In response to his attendance a “secure zone” was created, with security checkpoints and Secret Service men and women checking each and every item and person coming into the zone. Pence walked a short leg of the parade within his secure zone in the middle of the parade procession.
As tradition stands, a Grand Marshal is elected each year to lead the parade. Grand Marshals are those of Irish descent and high importance who are elected to lead the parade. The parade was fronted by Michael Kenny and his family this year.
Also on this day, women of all ages will choose to wear bright red lipstick, a longstanding tradition with an unknown origin. The males in town are left with red kiss marks on their cheeks throughout the day. Girls will run up to boys in the crowd and in the parade and give them a smooch.
The return rate for the parade is about fifty-fifty. Many are like Marcus Johnson, who says he has “not quite found the energy to go back with the kids” as it is an exhausting, all-day experience. Others such as Sam Beard are excited to have “one under the belt” wanting to “be more prepared next year and capitalize on all the opportunities” the day will bring.
Each square in Savannah had its own mob but was similarly destroyed by the crowd’s celebration endeavors. Clean up crews definitely had their work cut out for them, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for this size of an event. They will be back out there to do it all again next year.