Savannah Paints The Town Green
By Pamela Sherborne
March 2012 has come and gone. But memories of this year’s March 17 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Savannah, Georgia, linger. And, it seems one memory that has lingered longer than others is a city covered in green. From the fountains gushing green water in the parks making up the city’s four squares to the thousands of green-attired folks looking much like a river flowing slowly along the walk at the downtown City Market, the color green was everywhere.
One other lingering memory from that city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations is the unquestionable mood of merriment among the celebrates.
It is quite an event.
Savannah city officials estimated over a million people were drawn to the festivities this year. Although it technically kicked off earlier in the week with the greening of the city’s fountains, most visitors began their March 17 at first light as they searched the city streets for a good place to view Savannah’s 188th St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Many local residents claimed their parade spots within one of the four square parks. No one is allowed to stake out a spot before 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day so the serious ones lined up behind barriers set out by police officers that are on hand for the rush. Then, at 6 a.m., the flourish of activities resulted in fairly elaborate picnic sites with tents, chairs, tables, and space enough for their games of horseshoes, corn hole, beer pong and ladder ball.
There were a reported 15,000-plus participants in this year’s parade including, but not limited to, the new Savannah Bishop Gregory John Hartmayer riding in a convertible in his first St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the 2012 Parade Grand Marshal Timothy Ansley. Also in the parade were members of the Savannah Pipe and Drum Corps, Alee Temple Oriental Band, Army Rangers 1st Battalion, Irish Dancers of Savannah, Seminole High School Pride of the Tribe band and the C.S.R.A. All-Star Marching Band, just to name a few.
Local firefighters and police officers, also a traditional part of the parade, made their way through the streets of Savannah to cheers and sometimes spontaneous hugs and kisses along the way. Most were already sporting red lipstick kisses all over their cheeks – “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.” Well, they were all Irish at least for that day.
They most probably earned more than a cheek full of kisses for that day’s work. It is a very busy time for them, as it is for all of Savannah officials. They all know folks will come into the city to have a good time. And the city seemed to pull together to make sure that happened. The City of Savannah allows drinking of alcoholic beverages on the streets, in the parks, out in the open. The city allows people to go into a bar and ask for a drink to go.
So, they know there will be a lot going on. And, for the most part, city spokespeople said after the event that there were very few arrests made. Savannah-Chatham police spokesman was quoted in the Savannah Morning News the next day as saying: “People behaved. They just had fun. They did what they were supposed to do.”
The city’s EMTs were kept quite busy, but all in all it was a great success. That is a great tribute to the city for its preparations and for its handling of a very large outdoor party.
And that party lasted throughout the night. The festival zone normally runs in downtown streets from Jones Street to the Savannah River and from Martin Luther King Boulevard and Boundary Street to East Broad Street. Streets are closed to through traffic and musical stages are set up, as are retail booths. City Market, which runs along the Savannah River, had its share of booths and entertainment stages as well. There was spontaneous street entertainment and there was much laughter.
And, yes, there was literally dancing in the streets by folks donning green light-up necklaces, bracelets and headwear. As midnight approached, the sound of bagpipes, like in the morning parade, once again filled the air. A bagpipe band marched through the festival zone streets. They had with them their own entourage, dancing along in front of, behind of and beside of them, cheering and clapping. It was a day full of merriment that finally did come to a close sometime in the wee morning hours.
Then daylight spread like softened butter on bread across the city. The happy party-goers had finally nestled down and the music had stopped. The temporary eating stands had disappeared. The parade sites in the city’s squares, which had been staked out just 24 hours earlier, were gone and in their places were the green grass, the lush foliage and full bloom azaleas in plain sight. The wind swept through the tall trees there and gently swayed the Spanish moss hanging from the limbs. It was just another day.
And the city was clean. All the trash that had been abandoned on the streets as well as the overflowing trashcans had vanished. The streets were swept and washed.
It was like magic.
And, that is a fitting end to St. Patrick’s Day for this magical city.