St. Patrick’s Day in the United States
Regarded as a celebration of the Irish immigrants in the United States, St. Patrick’s day is filled with parades, events, concerts and parties. The United States has several noted celebrations and listed below are a few of the most noteworthy celebrations. With the assistance of Wikipedia and other web based resources, we have assembled just a few highlights for that day.
People in Atlanta, Georgia celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by holding a parade that courses through several blocks of a main portion of the city, particularly on Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta. In 2012, what was called the largest Irish flag in history was used in Atlanta’s parade. The St. Patrick’s Day parade has been held in Atlanta since 1858. In the 2014 parade, more than 200 units participated from across the South, and as far away as Ireland.
A large St. Patrick’s Day parade is held in South Boston, Massachusetts. During the Revolutionary War on March 17, 1776, when the British soldiers saw a line of 55 American cannons at Dorchester Heights, as well as hollowed-out logs that appeared to be cannons, they left Boston. The password for safe passage through continental lines at that time was “St. Patrick.” The very first celebration of Evacuation Day (Massachusetts) was in 1901. This day is celebrated in remembrance of the day that General George Washington and the Continental Army succeeded in causing British troops to end their occupation of Boston. Major George F.H. Murray of the Ninth Regiment of the Army was the first chief marshal of the parade.
Buffalo, New York
The city of Buffalo has two full Saint Patrick’s Day parades. The first is the “Old Neighborhood Parade,” which is in its 22nd year in 2015 and takes place in the city’s historic Old First Ward in South Buffalo on the Saturday nearest Saint Patrick’s Day (before or after). The older, larger “Buffalo Saint Patrick’s Day Parade” (in its 73rd consecutive year in 2015) also takes place, usually on the day after the Old Neighborhood parade. That parade runs from Niagara Square along Delaware Avenue to North Street. The latter parade is the third largest parade in New York State behind the New York City Parade and the Pearl River Parade. In addition to the full parades, Talty’s Tavern also holds a spoof parade that lasts only one block.
Butte Montana’s mining history brought in a large population of Irish immigrants, to the point that Gaelic was spoken as a common language in the mines and Butte had the highest percentage of Irish population of any city in America, including Boston. Today, the city’s population is under 40,000 people, and the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration brings in roughly 30,000 visitors each year, nearly doubling the city’s population for the day. Butte has a long history of running a parade through the Uptown District of the city and hosting music at a number of venues, including numerous bars, including one featuring booths created from church pews that had been imported from Dublin and a stone imported from County Clare at the door for visitors to touch. Until 2013 there was no open container law in Butte, and the current ordinance only prohibits open containers between 2:00 am and 8:00 am. The day’s events have a reputation for rowdy celebrations.
The Irish comprise one of the largest ethnic groups in the city of Chicago. Although the Irish are present throughout the city, the Beverly, Morgan Park, and Mount Greenwood neighborhoods have had strong Irish-Catholic populations as does the adjacent suburbs of Blue Island, Alsip, Merrionette Park, and Oak Lawn. People on the south side that are of Irish heritage are known as the “South Side Irish,” and have long had an influential role in the political and economic scene of the city. They even have their own song that features lines pronouncing pride in Irish-American heritage.
The city has many different Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, the most famous being the dyeing of the Chicago River. Each year, the city hosts a parade downtown, which is preceded by the dyeing of the Chicago River. The dyeing of the river involves thousands of people lining the banks of the river and watching as a boat releases dye into the river and turns the river a kelly green color. The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union Local 130 has historically sponsored the river dyeing and know the secret to the dye mix.
Another famous celebration is the South Side Irish parade. This is known as more of a celebration by those of Irish heritage rather than a popular activity attended by people of all heritages like the downtown celebration has been known. This parade features traditional Irish dancers, as well as various businesses and organizations from around the city. This parade has been scaled back in recent years as the Saint Patrick’s Day committee announced that it was becoming too large for the community to handle. In 2010, the South Side Parade was suspended. Due in part to pressure from community businesses—particularly pubs and package goods stores—as well as local churches on the city, the parade was reinstated in 2012. Of the various St. Patrick’s Day parades in Chicago, the South Side parade tries to be family friendly and currently has a zero tolerance policy for public alcohol consumption while attending the parade.
The Chicago White Sox baseball team, who play on the South side, are known for their “Halfway to Saint Patrick’s Day” promotion held in September, when the team wears white jerseys with green pinstripes and caps, in lieu of the traditional black.
As Ohio’s largest and oldest St. Patrick’s Day celebration, Cleveland has honored its Irish heritage with an annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade first begun in 1867. The parade always occurs on March 17, no matter the day of the week. Originally held in the nearby westside neighborhoods with high numbers of Irish population, the parade has grown to its present day location of Downtown Cleveland. Superior Avenue in Downtown Cleveland plays host to the parade route stretching from E.18th St to Public Square.
In recent years, over 15,000 registered participants march in the parade and display their floats in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators. A new record attendance was set in 2012 with over 500,000 people.
As part of the ceremony of the Cleveland Parade, a grand garshal is chosen to preside over the parade. This is an honorary title given to a man “usually in his senior years, who has contributed significantly to the advancement of the Irish Activities in Cleveland.” This recognition has been part of the ceremony since 1935. Also, since 1963, a “Mother of the Year” has been recognized.
Columbia, South Carolina
Five Points in Columbia, South Carolina, is home to one of the largest Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the southeast. Each year Saint Patrick’s in Five Points welcomes over 40,000 people living the luck of the Irish and celebrating all things Gaelic. Continually growing and improving, the festival includes a 10K and 5K run, a fun-filled parade, family entertainment, Irish food and craft offerings, child attraction, the Pot O’ Gold Playland, a swinging shag dance exhibition and DJ throwdown, as well as five outdoor stages with live music hosting over 25 musical acts.
St. Patrick’s Day was first formally celebrated in Detroit in 1808. The current parade, sponsored by the United Irish Societies, began in 1959. It is held in Detroit Corktown neighborhood, named after the its Irish residents who primarily immigrated from County Cork.
The “World’s Smallest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade” occurs in Enterprise, Alabama, each year. A person of Irish descent, generally dressed in festive garb and carrying a large Irish flag, is the only person in the parade. He, or she, walks one block from the courthouse to the Boll Weevil Monument and back to the courthouse. The parade is reported by local and national news.
Hoboken, New Jersey
The New Jersey city of Hoboken has held an annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade since 1986. The parade takes place at 1 pm and marches down Washington Street from 14th Street to 1st Street.
Over the years, there has been much controversy surrounding the public intoxication during this event. The city has issued a zero tolerance policy, and has been enacting $2,000 minimum fines for any alcohol-related offence.
This western Massachusetts factory town was the site of massive Irish immigration in the 19th century and hosts a parade its organizers claim is the second largest in the United States. It is scheduled on the Sunday following Saint Patrick’s Day each year. Attendance exceeds 300,000, with over 25,000 marchers through a 2.3-mile route in the city of 40,000. A 10K road race and many events create a remarkable festival weekend. Each year an Irish-American who has distinguished himself or herself in his or her chosen profession is awarded the John F. Kennedy National Award. JFK was a National Award Winner in the 1958 Holyoke Parade. Other winners include author Tom Clancy, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, and actor Pat O’Brien.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
The Hot Springs,Arkansas, parade is among world’s shortest and is held annually on historic Bridge Street, designated “The Shortest Street in the World” in the 1940s by Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The street is 98 feet long, making it suitable for the shortest Saint Patrick’s Day parade in the world.
Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade in downtown Jackson started in 1983 and has grown each year. The parade is the brainchild of Jackson entrepreneur Malcolm White, who is now the executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission. For years, a highlight of the parade was the Sweet Potato Queens, who started a separate parade in 2011 because their ranks of marchers had grown too numerous.
Las Vegas, Nevada
The Southern Nevada (formerly Las Vegas) Sons and Daughters of Erin have put on a parade since 1966. It was formerly held on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, later moved to 4th Street. Since 2005, the parade has been held in downtown Henderson. It is the biggest parade in the state of Nevada with over 100 entries. The celebration includes a three-day festival, carnival and classic car show in Old Town Henderson.
Maryville, Missouri, home of Northwest Missouri State University, annually holds a parade sponsored by The Palms Bar and Grill that has been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the shortest Saint Patrick’s Day parade. It runs approximately 1/2 of a block.
Historically the largest entry port for Irish immigrants in the US South, New Orleans has maintained a large population of Irish heritage. The earliest record of Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the city is 1809. Saint Patrick’s Day traditions going back to the 19th century continue, including multiple block parties and parades.
The New Orleans parades are mostly based around neighborhood and community organizations. Major parades include the Irish Channel parade, the Downtown Irish Parade starting in the Bywater neighborhood, multiple parades in the French Quarter, and a combined Irish-Italian Parade celebrating both Saint Patrick’s Day and Saint Joseph’s Day. As with many parades in New Orleans, the influence of New Orleans Mardi Gras is apparent, with some of the floats being reused from local Carnival parades, and beads and trinkets being thrown to those along the parade route. New Orleans Saint Patrick’s Day parades are also famous for throwing onions, carrots, cabbages, potatoes, and other ingredients for making an Irish stew.
Various suburbs and surrounding communities also hold celebrations, including parades in Metairie, Slidell, and an Irish Italian Isleño Parade in Chalmette.
New York City
The New York parade has not only become the largest Saint Patrick’s Day parade in the world but it is also the oldest civilian parade in the world. In a typical year, 150,000 marchers participate in it, including bands, firefighters, military and police groups, county associations, emigrant societies and social and cultural clubs with two million spectators line the streets. The parade marches up the 1.5-mile route along 5th Avenue in Manhattan, is a five-hour procession, and is always led by the 69th Infantry Regiment (New York). The commissioner of the parade always asks the commanding officer if the 69th is ready, to which the response is, “The 69th is always ready.” New York politicians—or those running for office—are always found prominently marching in the parade. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch (who was of Jewish ethnicity) once proclaimed himself “Ed O’Koch” for the day, and he continued to don an Irish sweater and march every year up until 2003, even though he was no longer in office.
For many years the parade has banned participating groups from displaying banners identifying their sexuality. In 1989 Dorothy Hayden Cudahy became the first female Grand Marshal of the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade; in 1984 she had become the first woman, as well as the first American-born person, to be elected president of the County Kilkenny Association.
Saint Patrick’s Day celebration, Union Army. Irish Brigade holds a steeplechase race, 17 March 1863.
On September 3, 2014, the organizers of the parade announced a decision to lift the ban on gay groups, as they preferred to keep the parade non-political and the ban was having the opposite effect.
The New York parade is moved to the previous Saturday (16 March) in years where 17 March is a Sunday. The event also has been moved on the rare occasions when, due to Easter’s falling on a very early date, 17 March would land in Holy Week. This same scenario arose again in 2008, when Easter fell on 23 March, but the festivities occurred on their normal date and were enjoyed by a record number of viewers. In many other American cities (such as San Francisco), the parade is always held on the Sunday before 17 March, regardless of the liturgical calendar.
Omaha’s “Stockyards” opened in 1883 and was once considered the largest livestock market in the world. This led to many ethnic groups’ settling in the surrounded area, one of which is Irish. The Irish were the third largest ethnic group in South Omaha in the 20th century. Today the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) Sarpy County Division’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has more than 130 entries and lasts more than 90 minutes as it snakes through downtown and the Old Market.
Pearl River, New York
Pearl River attracts a crowd of 100,000 people, making it the second largest parade in New York state behind the New York City Parade. The parade started in 1963.
The St. Patrick Society sponsors a St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Party on March 17 of each year. The Parade participants march along the designated parade route through downtown Peoria. Awards are presented in the following parade categories: Business Entries, Family Entries, and Organizational Entries. The Parade route ends near the designated site of the family-focused St. Patrick’s Day Party where families (Irish Clans) meet and enjoy Irish Music, Irish Dance and Irish refreshments.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Philadelphia is the nation’s second-oldest, having begun there in 1771. In 2013, the parade included about 20,000 participants in more than 150 groups. Participants included marching bands, youth groups, music dance groups, Irish associations, float riders and operators, and flag carriers.
Quad Cities, Illinois and Iowa
A large Irish population in this cluster of Midwestern cities hosts an impressive St. Patrick’s Day parade. It is the only United States parade hosted on an Interstate, crossing the I-74 bridge from Moline, Illinois into Bettendorf, Iowa. Being so close to Chicago, this parade still gathers around 200,000 annually on its historical parade route. Some travel experts have labeled it as one of the top St. Patrick’s Day parades in North America. Much of this is due to the unique nature and small town hospitality you get in the Quad Cities. The whole area combined is a population of around 350,000, with Davenport being the largest city at just under 100,000.
Rolla is home to the Missouri University of Science & Technology (formerly known as University of Missouri-Rolla, and Missouri School of Mines), an engineering college. Inasmuch as Saint Patrick is the patron saint of engineers, the school and town’s celebrations start ten days before Saint Patrick’s Day, with a downtown parade held the Saturday before Saint Patrick’s. A royal court is crowned, and the streets in the city’s downtown area are painted solid green. Each year’s celebrations are said to be “The Best Ever.” In 2008, Rolla celebrated its “100th Annual Best Ever Saint Patrick’s Day 2008″ celebration.
In previous years, a pit of green liquid was made by students as part of the festivities, and named ‘Alice’–stepping into Alice was a rite of bravery. In recent years the university faculty has banned the practice out of health concerns.
San Diego, California
San Diego’s 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival is the 35th Anniversary of the largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade west of the Mississippi. Lasting two hours and featuring over 120 entries, the theme for the day is “Celebrating Faith and Freedom” as designated by the Irish Congress of Southern California (ICSC). Enjoyed by more than 30,000, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival includes three performance stages, a Kid’s Zone, a Celtic Village, dozens of crafts and food booths, two beer gardens hosted by Guinness. Held in Balboa Park, the event was founded by James Foley who had helped organize the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hartford, Connecticut before he and his wife, Pat, moved to San Diego to open the Blarney Stone Pub.
San Francisco, California
There has been a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration in San Francisco since 1852. San Francisco has always had a large Irish American population and for many decades Irish Americans were the largest ethnic group in San Francisco. However, as of the early 21st century, the largest ethnic group in San Francisco is Chinese Americans and most of the Irish Americans have moved to the suburban parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. Each year, however, Irish from all over the San Francisco Bay Area come into San Francisco to march in or to see the Saint Patrick’s Day parade march down Market Street, held the Sunday before Saint Patrick’s Day. Numerous people from all ethnic groups can be seen wearing green in San Francisco on Saint Patrick’s Day.
One of the largest parades is held in Savannah, Georgia. The parade held in Savannah is the largest in Georgia. Many Irish settled in Savannah even in the earliest years since those freed from debtors’ prison were invited to join General James Oglethorpe’s fledging colony. There is a Mass at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist prior to the parade. In the early 1960s, there was an attempt to dye the Savannah River green, but all it produced was an irregular green stripe in the middle of the river. The parade organisers claimed an expected attendance of around 400,000 for 2011. In 2006, the Tánaiste was featured in the parade. The parade travels through Savannah’s Historic District. One tradition that has developed has been the official “dyeing of the fountains” which happens several days before the parade.
Some confusion exists about the year of the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah. There is some evidence that a private parade was held by “an unidentified group” referred to as “Fencibles” on 17 March 1813. Another source states that the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Savannah was held in 1818. However, it is generally accepted that the first publicly held Saint Patrick’s Day procession was in 1824, organized by the Hibernian Society.
The 2012 Parade included over 360 participants making it the largest parade in the history of the City of Savannah. Organizers say that the 2012 crowd was well over a million people.
Due to the rich history of Scranton participation in Saint Patrick’s Day festivities it is one of the oldest parades in the United States. It has been going on annually since 1862 by the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Association of Lackawanna County and the parade has got attention nationally as being one of the better Saint Patrick’s Day parades. The parade route begins on Wyoming Ave. and loops up to Penn Ave. and then Lackawanna Ave. before going back down over Jefferson Ave. to get to Washington Ave. While it is an impressive parade for a town the size of Scranton, it pales in comparison to larger cities in regards to size. Many people from the area believe this to be one of the greatest parades in the U.S.
Seattle Washington’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, recognized by CNN in 2009 as one of the “Five places to get your green on” in America, travels along a 1-mile route through the Emerald City’s downtown financial and retail core the Saturday before Saint Patrick’s Day. Seattle’s Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration is the largest and oldest in the Northwestern United States. In 2009, some 20,000 spectators and groups from throughout the Northwest turned out for the city’s Irish shenanigans. Along with the annual “Laying ‘O the Green” where Irish revelers mark the path of the next morning’s procession with a mile-long green stripe, the Seattle parade marks the high-point of Seattle’s Irish Week festivities. The week-long civic celebration organized by the city’s Irish Heritage Club includes the annual Society of the Friends of Saint Patrick Dinner where a century-old Irish Shillelaghhas been passed to the group’s new president for 70 years, an Irish Soda Bread Baking Contest, a Mass for Peace that brings together Catholics and others in a Protestant church, and the annual Irish Week Festival, which takes place around Saint Patrick’s Day is enormous, including step dancing, food, historical and modern exhibitions, and Irish lessons. Many celebrities of Irish descent visit Seattle during its Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration. In 2010 The Right Honorable Desmond Guinness, a direct descendant of Guinness Brewery founder Arthur Guinness, will serve as the parade’s grand marshal. In 2009, The Tonight Show’s Conan O’Brien made a guest appearance at the annual Mayor’s Proclamation Luncheon at local Irish haunt F.X. McCrory’s. And in 2008, European Union Ambassador to the US and former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton served as the parade’s grand marshal and marched alongside Tom Costello, the mayor of Galway, Seattle’s Irish sister city. Spokane, in eastern Washington, also hosts a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.
Syracuse, New York
In the city of Syracuse, NY, Saint Patrick’s celebrations are traditionally begun with the delivery of green beer to Coleman’s Irish Pub on the last Sunday of February. Coleman’s is located in the Tipperary Hill section of the city. Tipperary Hill is home to the World famous “Green-on-Top” Traffic Light and is historically the Irish section in Syracuse. Saint Patrick’s Day is rung in at midnight with the painting of a Shamrock under the Green-Over-Red traffic light. Syracuse boasts the largest Saint Patrick’s Day celebration per-capita in the United States with their annual Syracuse Saint Patrick’s Parade, founded by Nancy Duffy, an honoured journalist in the Central New York area and an active community leader, and Daniel F. Casey, a local Irishman and businessman. “The parade remains a major annual event, typically drawing an estimated crowd of more than 100,000 visitors to downtown Syracuse, as well as 5,000 to 6,000 marchers.”
The Tallahassee Irish Society has been hosting an annual Saint Patrick’s Day event in Tallahassee since 1999. In 2010, along with the City of Tallahassee, the first annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade and Downtown Get Down is being hosted along Adams Street.
A one-day music festival called National ShamrockFest has been held in Washington, D.C. each year since 2000 in association with Saint Patrick’s Day. Approximately 40,000 people attend each year.