WASHINGTON, March 15, 2013 — A different kind of March Madness hits the nation every March when average Americans are bitten by a leprechaun and are suddenly Irish for a day, making them ready for a parade, preferably the Irish one in honor of the saint who drove the snakes out of Ireland (or so they say): St. Patrick.
Most big city parades will be covered by their local television stations. So if you can’t go, you can see one on TV (check local listings).
However, for those of you who love a parade and want to be there in person, here’s where to find some of the best, including the world’s smallest St. Patrick’s Day Parade:
Enterprise, Ala. — Every year since 1993, a parade of one, the Grand Marshal only, marches past the courthouse and then around the town’s Boll Weevil Monument, carrying an Irish flag.
Celebrating its 20th year on Saturday, March 16 at noon, Grand Marshall Maggie Haas, decked out in green, of course, is expected to attract a crowd of about 400 before heading to the reception at Antiques on Main, where green treats will be available for all. The only requirement for being Grand Marshal is to be of Irish descent and to convince the Enterprise Chamber of Commerce to select you.
New York City — The oldest and largest of the St. Paddy’s Day parades in the Western Hemisphere, dating back to 1762, steps off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 16. More than 150,000 people will be in the parade with another two million spectators lining Fifth Avenue. No floats, no cars, no balloons — everyone marches on foot with an expected 145 marching bands setting the pace.
The “Fighting 69th Infantry” will lead the parade as they have since 1851, when they marched at the head of the parade to protect the marchers from attacks by anti-Irish groups. The battalion commander will ask the traditional: “Is the 69th ready?” And the soldiers will boom back, “The 69th is always ready!”
No alcohol is allowed at the parade, but New York’s pubs from White Horse Tavern (1880) to McSorley’s Old Ale House (1854) will be serving traditional Guinness for the thirsty crowd.
Boston — Often called the capital of Irish America, Boston hosts its 112th St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday, March 17. Kicking off at 1 p.m., it will wend its way through the most Irish corner of this Irish city, South Boston, starting at the Broadway “T” Station and ending at Andrew Square.
Since 1901, the South Boston parade has been a grand tradition, but all of March is seen as Irish celebration month. After the parade, Irish and the Irish-For-A-Day are invited to follow Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail, a three-mile stroll that starts at the Rose Kennedy Garden down at the waterfront and meanders through Boston to a short way from Fenway Park.
Philadelphia — If you were planning on going to the parade in Philadelphia, sorry, friends, you missed it. The second oldest St. Paddy’s Parade, dating back to 1771, already took place on Sunday, March 10.
It may not be the oldest or even the biggest parade, but Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has something no other city can boost, the Chicago River turns an incredible green, a miracle some say.
The parade itself begins at noon on Saturday, March 16, starting at Balbo and Columbus Drive. But not to be missed is the transformation of the river at 10 a.m.
Since 1961, the river suddenly blossoms into the color of shamrocks, the reason Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. After gaping at the emerald river, head over to get a spot along the parade route. For those who are a bit thirsty afterwards, the Irish American News can tell you where to slack that thirst.
Washington, D.C. — Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, USN (ret) will be the Grand Marshal this year as the parade moves down Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Street, N.W. on Sunday, March 17 at noon. The theme of this year’s parade is “Celebrating Service to the Stars and Stripes.” But the mission of this St. Patrick’s Day Parade is as it always has been to celebrate America’s Irish culture.
The D.C. parade has been held annually since 1971, when only a couple of hundred marchers proceeded through the Capitol to today’s mile long, two-hour parade with grandstands along the route.
New Orleans —
You may think of Mardi Gras when you think of New Orleans, but the city puts on a heck of a St. Patrick’s Day Parade too. This Sunday, March 17 at noon will be no different with bands, dancing groups and floats.
Lucky spectators may get flowers and beads (just like at Mardi Gras) and even a kiss or two. Those beseeching the folks on the floats, “Throw me something, Mister!” may find that instead of a necklace, however, a cabbage, a carrot, a potato, or maybe even a moon pie is hurled their way.
Kansas City — The 41st Annual Kansas City parade heads down Broadway from Linwood to 43rd Street at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 17. The theme this year is the “Gathering of the Clans — An Irish Homecoming.” In connection with the parade, there will be the 28th Annual Go for the Green Food Drive sponsored by the Harvesters, the Community Food Network.
Denver — Boasting that it is one of the largest parades west of the Mississippi, Denver’s 51st St. Paddy’s Day celebration starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 16, at 17th and Blake and ending where else: the Coors Beer Field Parking.
San Francisco — More than 100,000 people are expected to cram the parade route as the 162nd St. Patrick’s Day Parade struts its stuff, rain or shine or fog, on Saturday, March 16 at 11:30 a.m. Over a 100 Irish dance troupes, bands and floats will march down Market Street to Civic Center.
Before and after the parade, the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day Festival at the Civic Center Plaza will showcase Irish culture with live performances from The Gas Men to the Hooks. A petting zoo, pony rides, children’s rides, and Irish culture and craft booths will fill the Plaza.
Dublin, Ireland —
Not Dublin, Ohio or Dublin, Calif., but the original Dublin in Ireland has its own five-day celebration in honor of St. Patrick with the parade on Sunday, March 17 at 9:30 a.m.
For the first time, 8,000 people from around the world were invited to join the “People’s Parade” as part of “The Gathering Ireland 2013.” Over one million people are expected to participate this year or be part of the festival, which includes the parade, street theater, music, dance, comedy, film, carnival, and family events.
The Irish have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day as a religious holiday since the 8th century, but it was not until 1931 that the Irish Free state instituted the parade, and the festival began in 1996, growing larger every year. So don’t expect to book a room this year, but there is sure to be space for a cold one at a pub.
The smallest parade in Ireland is in Cork, only 100 yards to march from one pub to another.
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