St. Patrick's Day marked with parades, festivals

Saturday, March 19, 2005

DUBLIN, Ireland -- More than 500,000 people lined the streets of Dublin to watch Ireland's major St. Patrick's Day on Thursday, an extravaganza of artistic skills that featured towering butterflies and teens dressed as mad professors.

Across the Atlantic, celebrations took place across the United States from New York City to Blue Springs, Mo., to Savannah, Ga.,

The Dublin parade, the centerpiece of a five-day festival culminating this weekend with Europe's biggest annual fireworks show, involved about 3,000 participants in brightly colored costumes and a half-dozen marching bands from Ireland and the United States.

Donal Shiels, chief executive of the festival, called the turnout, estimated at more than 500,000 people, "the biggest crowd ever in the history of the parade," though this couldn't be independently confirmed.

More "Erin go brrrr" than "Erin go bragh," Savannah's most celebrated holiday left thousands of revelers shivering in their shamrock regalia Thursday as temperatures plunged to a damp, overcast 44 degrees.

The high temperature in Savannah Thursday was 45 degrees, the chilliest St. Patty's Day on record, the National Weather Service reported. The port city's previous coldest March 17 was 1960, when the high was 52 degrees. The temperature continued to drop Thursday evening.

"It doesn't really matter to us, the weather -- it's rain or shine," said Recicar, a Savannah sales manager whose family watched a morning drizzle from beneath a tent stocked with a portable heater and bottles of rum, scotch and vodka. "It's a good party, and we don't miss a good party."

Billed as home of the nation's second-largest St. Patrick's Day parade -- second only to New York -- Savannah's celebration normally symbolizes a balmy slide into springtime with temperatures comfortably above 70 degrees.

Many cities celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a large parade, but one Missouri town celebrates with the shortest and smallest parade.

Dozens of residents gathered Thursday in Blue Springs, where the parade route is 66 feet long.

The route has remained the same for 28 years.

"We walk across the street instead of down the street. We're waiting for Blue Springs to create a traditional parade that would go down the street," said parade organizer Pat Meyer.

Hundreds of New York City firefighters refused to take part in the St. Patrick's Day parade on Thursday in protest at a ban on wearing green hats during the annual march up Fifth Avenue.

Firefighters in the Green Beret Platoon halted their 30-year tradition of participating in the parade and elected instead to watch the massive event from the sidelines.

They were objecting to a memo from the chief of the Fire Department of New York that said firefighters could only march in standard uniforms and caps.

The directive was intended to instill greater discipline in the rank and file after a recent series of scandals, including a drunken brawl in a Staten Island firehouse two years ago and a sex scandal at a Bronx station last summer.

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