NEW YORK – An ice storm wiped away the traditional green stripe painted on Fifth Avenue, but it could not keep away thousands of St. Patrick’s Day celebrants from the city’s parade Saturday.
“We came to party!” declared Una Murray of Dublin, Ireland, who carried green, white and orange balloons and sported fake green braids.
Revelers came to watch the 246th parade, pressing against police barricades to cheer marching bands and men and women in uniform. The event typically draws 2 million spectators and 150,000 marchers.
By late morning, Fifth Avenue pubs were packed with people wearing green hats, green boas, green ponchos and flashing green necklaces.
In Savannah, Ga., thousands of gaudy green revelers crammed the downtown for what was billed as the nation’s second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade. Parade organizers anticipated crowds as big as 700,000, though Savannah police predicted fewer than 500,000.
The revelers stood 10-deep along sidewalks, and were served cocktails under party tents in the oak-shaded squares.
“If you can sell me about four hours of sleep, I’ll gladly pay for it,” said reveler Rick Parrish, 54, who has been in Lafayette Square since Thursday to stake out a prime viewing spot. “I’m kind of rejuvenated now. I just went out and took a little sponge bath by my truck.”
In New York, the celebration as in past years was preceded by another March tradition: an annual bit of Irish infighting. This year’s hostilities pitted parade boss John Dunleavy against the Fire Department.
Dunleavy moved FDNY marchers from their traditional spot at the start of the parade to a location much further back. The shift was a response to an incident last year when New Orleans firefighters delayed the parade while unfurling a banner thanking New York for its aid after Hurricane Katrina.
Dunleavy also annoyed firefighters by complaining that many showed up drunk for the march.