- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - Green overcame gray Thursday as thousands celebrating St. Patrick’s Day along the cobblestone streets and oak-shaded squares of Savannah saw light rain and thunder retreat before the opening drumbeats of the city’s sprawling parade.

Revelers in gaudy green hats and T-shirts filled the sidewalks and squares, though not in the sometimes stifling numbers Savannah has drawn when the Irish holiday falls on a Friday or Saturday. Bars, hotels and restaurants predicted a long, lucrative celebration with many visitors staying into the weekend.

“Hands down, Savannah is the best,” said Sarah Griffenhagen of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who has traveled to St. Patrick’s Day parades across the U.S. with her three sisters and two cousins for the past decade. “You can party if you want to party, but it’s also family-friendly.”

Here’s a look at how Savannah celebrated Thursday:

___

COLOR COORDINATED

The crowds in downtown Savannah were decked out in all manner of green attire: bowler hats and plastic beads, “Kiss Me I’m Irish” T-shirts and golf plants embroidered with tiny shamrocks.

But Dwayne Schumpert of Columbia, South Carolina, showed up wearing a little bit of everything.

Beneath a floppy felt hat festooned with green carnations, Schumpert wore a sequined domino mask and a fake red beard that covered his entire face. An Irish flag flew over his right shoulder, above a shamrock-covered cape. His shirt was smothered by dozens of beaded necklaces and feather boas, while buttons covered his pants.

“It took me about 40 minutes to put it all on this morning,” Schumpert said. “It’ll probably take me two hours to take it off because it all gets tangled together.”

Schumpert shuffled down the street, pausing often for photos with complete strangers. One woman asked, “What are you?”

“I’ve been called a lot of things,” Schumpert replied, “a green sasquatch, or a leprechaun meets Vegas.”

___

COME RAIN OR COME SHINE

Parade watchers who packed umbrellas or ponchos because of the cloudy skies got a brief chance to use them.

Light rain fell on the crowds Thursday morning as thunder could be heard rumbling in the distance. Both stopped by the time the parade kicked off at 10:15 a.m.

Otherwise the overcast weather made for a perfect day to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day outdoors. The temperature was 73 degrees by noon and forecasts called for a high of 81.

In New York, Boston and Chicago, St. Patrick’s parades marched through temperatures in the 50s.

___

MARCHING ON MARCH 17

Savannah’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade was a modest procession that the city’s Irish immigrants organized in 1824. There’s nothing small about it these days.

Led by police officers on horseback and motorcycles, followed closely by a thundering band of bagpipes and drums, this year’s parade included about 260 entries: marching bands, military units, convertibles toting waving dignitaries and glittering floats pulled by pickup trucks.

They marched or rode along a route winding 2.6 miles through Savannah’s downtown historic district.

Madeleine Hall, age 4, had one of the best seats along the entire parade route, perched atop her father’s shoulders as he stood among the crowd on Abercorn Street. She said the floats were her favorite part.

Her father, Geoff Hall of Savannah, said attending the parade has become something of an unintentional family tradition.

“It seems like we never plan on coming,” Hall said. “But every year we end up here.”

___

WET WEEKEND

Savannah bartenders don’t get much sleep when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around.

Matthew Garappolo opened his downtown Savannah bar, The Original, at 7 a.m. Thursday. He already had customers waiting to buy bloody Marys and Pabst Blue Ribbon, just four hours after last call the night before.

The parade Thursday was expected to be just the beginning of Savannah’s celebration this year. Visit Savannah, the city’s tourism bureau, says many visitors have booked trips through the weekend this year.

“It should be crazy,” Garappolo said while serving a steady stream of customers before lunchtime Thursday. ” If the weather’s nice, it’ll be nuts.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide