With the blooming azaleas at the tail end of an early spring season, Savannah prepares for our favorite day of the year, St Patrick’s Day! Our sleepy city comes to life with bustling preparations for the thousands of visitors that will soon descend on the Hostess City to celebrate the fabled Irish Saint Patrick. Low country residents all up and down the coast prepare to party alongside tourists and locals for a weeklong celebration of Savannah’s Irish Heritage.
Whether this is your first time or your one hundred and ninety third, there is something to do for the whole family as the festivities start well in advance of March 17th. It kicks off with the annual “Greening of the Fountain” in Forsyth Park. On March 10th, this year a sizable gathering of locals and visitors watched as the water in the centrally located Fountain was turned to the green that the entire the city will wear for the duration of the festivities. Then the party really starts on Saturday the 11th with Tybee Island hosting their own smaller version St Patrick’s Day Parade. Meanwhile, downtown at Emmett Park, on the corner of East Broad and Bay Street, the tradition of Irish Step dancing is on full display at the 26th annual Tara Feis. With bagpipes and a Celtic band and multiple step dancing companies of varying ages; this is a must see, there is even a children’s stage with puppet shows. This event last from 11am-5pm and is a nonalcoholic, family friendly event. Traditional Catholic celebrants will enjoy the Celtic Cross Mass at St John’s Cathedral. A special pre-holiday mass in honor of St Patrick, it starts at 11:30, and is probably how the City originally celebrated the Holiday 193 years ago, It is a fitting venue for the Mass, since it was built by Irish architects for just such occasions.
The modern-day celebration will be a three-day affair starting on Thursday March 16th. The two main hubs of the party, River Street and City Market, will start the Dance party and live music at 10am-12am, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. As a local I recommend the City Market area for the day drinkers. Great local bands play, plus our favorite local pizza joint, Vinnie Van GoGo’s sells slices all day. Believe me just one slice can help you rally for the long night ahead. Even though Savannah allows you to drink your green beer in the street, please make sure you have it in a plastic cup. This year the area of City Market and River street will be a ‘Control Zone’, so please bring a valid ID in order to purchase your wristband for $10, or you will be forced to abstain. There will be wristband booths aplenty scattered throughout the zone, and credit cards are accepted. Also outside alcohol will not be allowed in this zone but don’t worry there is a bar every few steps, with beer stations throughout as well.
The main event, the St Patrick’s Day Parade, will happen rain or shine beginning at 10:15 am on Friday, March 17th. Started in 1824, this spectacle will feature pipe bands, step dancers from around the world and over 350 marching units and up to 15,000 participants. Preceded by Mass, this festive march begins at Gwinnett and Abercorn Street but it winds throughout the city, going north on Abercorn to Broughton street then meandering up East Broad to end up on Harris street many hours later. Locals set up chairs and tents in the pre- dawn hours, and celebrate throughout the Parade, picnic style, so if you find a friendly group or are an early riser; this is definitely how to enjoy this event. My favorite spot to view the Parade is Clary’s Cafe on 202 Abercorn Street. They sell coffee plus breakfast all day and if you eat there you get a stamp for bathroom access which is nice change from the port a potties everywhere else. After the Parade with a belly full of breakfast, my group of friends and I usually head down to River Street to admire the festival goer’s costumes and dance the night away. Be sure to enjoy a frozen margarita at Lizzy’s Tequila bar on the East end while you work your way down to the music at Rousakis Plaza.
Some advice from a veteran, park your car on Thursday and don’t drive, especially if you are drinking. There are multiple options available for the sore feet of an all-day reveler,:Uber, Lyft, PediCabs, Yellow cab or even triple AAA offers free rides but do call far ahead as everyone will be busy. Be advised there are multiple Road closures during the Parade. If you are driving in the day of, please check the list of them on the link below. You can always park across the bridge at Hutchinson Island, there will be free shuttles back and forth from Indian Street until 1am Thursday and 3am Friday and Saturday and the Ferry will run until 12:00am all three days. I would also recommend leaving a hour or so before Midnight to avoid the chaos, since the Savannah police will shut everything down, forcing everyone to leave at the same time.
We hope you enjoy sharing our celebration, and our city, Erin Go Bragh!!