State News

March 16, 2013

Thousands celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah

SAVANNAH (AP) — Thousands of gaudy green revelers Saturday crammed the oak-shaded squares and sidewalks of downtown Savannah for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration that’s a 189-year-old tradition in Georgia’s oldest city.

Led by bagpipers in green kilts, the parade kicked off just after 10 a.m. and snaked through the streets with more than 300 floats, marching bands, military units marching in formation, and dignitaries in convertibles decorated with shamrocks.

Thirsty customers began lining up at downtown bars not long after sunrise, while more than 1,000 worshippers packed the pews of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist for the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Mass that precedes the parade.

Bev Kehayes of Greensboro, N.C., joined friends at Lafayette Square near the start of the parade route. She made special hats festooned with green feathers and flowers just for the occasion.

“It’s good clean fun. Heaven forbid there’s a little alcohol involved,” said Kehayes, who says she’s missed only three St. Patrick’s celebrations in Savannah in the past 29 years.

Started in 1824 by early Irish immigrants to Georgia, the parade has ballooned into a sprawling street party that makes for Savannah’s most profitable tourism event. Hotels across the city are jam-packed, and bars and restaurants count on the celebration to fill their cash registers with green.

The parade also has deep religious roots for Savannah families of Irish descent. The parade’s grand marshal, third-generation Savannahian Jimmy Ray, paused in front of the cathedral near the start of the procession to receive the traditional blessing from Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, the leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah.

“This is a great honor,” Ray said as he knelt to receive his blessing in front of the towering, Gothic church.

Of course, St. Patrick’s Day officially falls on March 17, which is Sunday. But Savannah and other cities with big celebrations such as New York and Chicago held their parades Saturday.

That’s also a longstanding Savannah tradition. Local Catholic church leaders have discouraged Sunday parades and the revelry they attract. The arrangement is preferred by bar owners as well, who by state law can’t open on Sunday if most of their revenues come from booze rather than food.

Kehayes and her friend Sara Farnsworth joined more than 200 people, a mixture of local families and visitors, who camp out every year in Lafayette Square. It was only Farnsworth’s second time in Savannah for the parade.

“It’s chaotic and fun,” she said. “It’s amazing how much people get into the spirit of things and the wonderful green clothes.”

Few were in the spirit more than Kehayes. She brought four boxes containing more than 700 strands of green beads to pass out during the parade. Never mind the metal barricades police erect trying to keep the crowd from mingling too much with the actual parade.

“To bead is a verb, and I bead people who have good attitudes and are smiling, or I may give them to a line of military guys,” Kehayes said. “I consider this an audience participation parade, even though the police don’t always think of it that way.”


Text Only
State News
  • One charged in death of Dalton woman, another sought

    A Dalton woman found dead in Calhoun earlier this month is believed to have died of a drug overdose after two Calhoun residents abandoned her in a car behind the VFW on East Line Street, Lt. Tony Pyle with the Calhoun Police Department said Wednesday afternoon.

    June 18, 2014

  • Guard shot at FedEx center to undergo 14th surgery

    A security guard critically wounded when a gunman went on a rampage at a FedEx facility is scheduled to undergo his 14th operation Tuesday.

    May 27, 2014

  • Arson ruled out as cause of chemical plant fire

    Police say investigators have been able to rule out arson or foul play as the cause of a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles.

    May 27, 2014

  • Teen tied to shopping cart drowns in lake

    Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials say a teen has died after being tied to a shopping cart and pushed into Lake Allatoona.

    May 25, 2014

  • Underground tattoo artists frustrate officials

    The work of tattoo artists whose living rooms double as body art studios might come cheap, but experts say the unsterile -- and illegal -- work environments could leave clients in pain long after the initial sting of the needle subsides.

    May 25, 2014

  • No runoff lets Republicans focus on Rep. Barrow

    While Georgia Republicans have to wait until July to settle runoff races for the U.S. Senate and three open House seats, one of the biggest GOP victories in the primary elections last week went to Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen.

    May 25, 2014

  • Audit probes juvenile justice turnover rate

    A state audit cites low pay, long hours and management concerns as reasons for a relatively high turnover rate at the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

    May 25, 2014

  • Atlanta schools ex-tech director to be sentenced

    After his relationship with the superintendent of Atlanta’s school system soured, a former technology director for the district set up a kickback scheme to pad his pockets before he left his job, according to court documents.

    May 24, 2014

  • Georgia veteran, 92, honored at surprise ceremony

    Family and friends surprised a 92-year-old World War II veteran from Georgia on Memorial Day by honoring him and presenting him with the World War II Victory Medal.

    May 24, 2014

  • Police: Massive chemical plant fire extinguished

    Authorities say a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles has been extinguished.

    May 24, 2014