My husband Brian and I met and spent the first years of our marriage in Savannah, Georgia. Why do I mention that today? Because on St. Patrick’s Day, Savannah is always brought to mind, even 25 years after we moved back to Northeast Ohio. The parade in Savannah, a colonial city built by Irish immigrants, is home to the second-largest parade in America, right behind New York City’s green extravaganza.
One of my favorite pictures of my daughter was taken when my husband brought her to visit me at the newspaper office on what turned out to be our last St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah. She was only 5 months old and looked adorable in a shamrock-adorned onesie and one of those headbands you put on bald babies. (We won’t mention that I actually used a green leg garter instead of a baby headband … no idea why … on her head that left a patterned groove in her forehead. I still feel a tad guilty about that.)
Hundreds of thousands pack the streets to watch the usually five-hour parade, followed by a daylong party in restaurants, bars and along River Street. The revelers are uniformly green-haired, green-clothed and, by the next day, green-faced.
Even this year, with the parade canceled, the city is expecting 30,000 to 50,000 visitors. Because if it's March 17, it must be time to visit Savannah.
I also have fond memories of Cleveland’s parade, which, while not the five-hour marathon, is great. I really had the luck of the Irish on my side because in both Savannah and Cleveland, my newspaper office was right on the parade route. In Cleveland, the Plain Dealer building had two-story windows, so we could watch from the warmth of indoors.
My daughter, as well as the son who came three years later, loved the parade. As time went on, though, both grew very disillusioned by the festivities. I remember once the parade was on a weekend and we took the RTA rapid downtown instead of driving. Part of the fun, I thought. Boy, was I wrong. Even at 11 a.m. the trains were filled with people who had had too much to drink. One memorable year, I looked down and saw a river of urine flowing down the train aisle.
The crowds, smoking and drinking ended up being too much for at least three of us, so in the last couple of years, after my son hit 18 years old, I let him go it alone. Two years ago, that too came to an end. He is incredibly kind hearted and he ended up giving the $20 we gave him for food and souvenirs to a panhandler who, with two others, surrounded and intimidated him into giving them all his money “for gas to get home.”
All that aside, I am thinking next year we have to go downtown and watch the Cleveland parade in person. It will be part of the probably years-long process of getting back to normal. Or maybe we will go to Savannah, visit old friends, watch the parade and again marvel at all the historic fountains filled with green water.
Good times are ahead, friends. They are ahead.
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