St. Patrick's Day in Savannah 1997

(Also known as Bill and Katie's Excellent St. Paddy's Adventure)

St. Patrick's Day is a long standing tradition in Savannah, GA. Ten percent of Savannah's population is of Irish decent and that is enough to celebrate March 17, the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. In the past, St. Patrick's Day in Ireland was celebrated much more reverently than in the United States. However, that has changed. No matter what, here in Savannah, it is a reason to wear green, drink green beer, eat green grits, corned beef and cabbage, and have a parade and a party.

In Savannah, all the schools are closed and the only people at work are the ones who run the bars, restaurants, and hotels that serve the partying masses. At 8:00 AM, there is a special Mass in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. At 10:15 AM, the 2nd largest parade in the country (behind New York City) begins from Forsyth Park and spends the next 3.5 hours winding its way through downtown Savannah with over 250 units. The military units are the most popular with Irish lasses, also known as "Kissing Bandits" who plant red lipstick kisses on the cheeks of marching men. After the parade, the party moves to River Street and continues until the wee hours of the morning. The Hibernian Society has its annual dinner at 8:00 PM that night (which my dad and his all his cronies attend in black tie). The Hibernian Society is all male and no female guests are allowed. The only females at the dinner are workers.

This year, the celebration lasted the entire weekend. It began Friday night with revelers coming into town. The party reached its height Saturday night, where we heard it was wall to wall on River Street. Sunday night was a little calmer. You could actually walk around without bumping into people. There was plenty of beer, but my favorite drink was the monster Hurricanes. Everywhere you looked, someone was hawking something, whether it was food, drink, or tacky souvenirs. The rage this year was to wear countless long strings of green, gold, and silver beads, much like you see in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, you had to pay from $3.00 to $6.00 per strand, depending upon how fancy the baubles were! There were no Krewe parades to beg beads here! Green and white Cat in the Hat hats were popular, along with shiny metallic green wigs, and green and white jester caps. The festivities and colorful revelers were backdropped by absolutely gorgeous blooming azeleas and wisteria in all the downtown squares. The weather was sunny, a bit cool (about 60 degrees) but definitely perfect for a parade and party.