Credit: Benjamin Payne / GPB News
Savannah ready for St. Patrick's Day parade, nearly 200 years after its inception
LISTEN: Thousands of parade-goers will congregate in downtown Savannah for what is one of the country's largest St. Patrick's Day gatherings. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.
Savannah's St. Patrick's Day parade — one of the busiest in the country — returns Friday at 10:30 a.m., when thousands of revelers will line the streets and squares of downtown for the event, which first began in 1824.
But some are already staking out spots, and persevering through the cold that comes with it.
“Last night it got down to 36 degrees,” said Trey Parrish, who set up camp Wednesday evening at Lafayette Square to reserve a prime viewing spot for his family. “The coldest I ever had was 21 degrees, And that year my dad actually had to go home because of his neck and problems with the cold.”
Fortunately for parade-goers, the National Weather Service has forecasted Friday to be the warmest day all week in Savannah, with a high near 77 degrees under mostly sunny skies.
Parrish's advice for first-time attendees?
“There are traditions here that are probably older than you are, so just keep that in mind when you want to get a good spot for the parade,” he said. “There's families out here that have been doing this for a long time, and we love to work with new people. We love to invite them in and get them a good spot behind our group so that their kids can still go to the front and watch the parade with our kids.”
The 42-year-old Parrish himself has been coming to the parade every year since he was a kid. Technically, since before he was a kid: “Mom was eight months pregnant with me, and that was my first St. Patty's Day.”
According to the event's committee, the parade consists of about 280 “units” — among them floats, families, soldiers, and bands.
And although things may get rowdy at times — as the Georgia Department of Economic Development estimates that the parade draws roughly 400,000 visitors — Parrish urges everyone to be respectful and kind.
“There's no room for fighting. There's no room for becoming belligerent. It's not just an excuse to get drunk. It's about family, faith and fun.”