The Quick 10: 10 St. Patrick's Day Parades
In some cities, it's not St. Patrick's Day without the parade. We have one in Des Moines, but (gasp) I've never been. Ours is small potatoes compared to some of these - here are 10 parades that happen around the world, from Dublin to South Korea, from the biggest to the shortest.
1. New York is home to the longest-running St. Patrick's Day parade not just in the U.S., but anywhere. The parade had meager beginnings in 1762, with a group of Irish soldiers serving in the English military who decided to march through the streets to celebrate their heritage. It grew a bit every year and various Irish groups started assembling their own marches throughout the city. In 1848, a bunch of them decided to get together and form one big march, which eventually became the parade we know today. What started with a handful of Irish soldiers now includes about 150,000 participants and somewhere between two and three million spectators.
2. Boston is also a contender for the longest-running St. Patrick's Day parade "“ legend puts their first parade a whopping 25 years before the New York counterpart. The tale there is one similar to the New York parade "“ the story is that in 1737, some Irish colonists held a small gathering in the street to acknowledge their roots. The History Channel calls New York the first official parade, though - any Bostonians care to dispute?
3. Hot Springs, Arkansas. The boyhood home of Bill Clinton, Alan Ladd and Billy Bob Thornton boasts a parade route that's just 98 feet long. Billed as "The World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade," the celebration is small on yardage but big on star power: this year's parade marshal is Bo Derek. Past marshals have included Pauly Shore, John Ratzenberger, Mike Rowe, George Wendt and Mario Lopez. Entertainment for those 98 feet includes your typical floats, but also the Irish Order of Elvi (Irish Elvis impersonators) and a group of Irish belly dancers.
4. Dripsey, Cork. The parade held in this small village in County Cork is a bit longer than the parade in Arkansas (about 100 yards total), but I like their beginning and end points better: two pubs. Some sources day the parade has been discontinued since a Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, but others say 2001 was the only year the short celebration was halted. Do we have any _flossers in the know?
5. Montserrat, Caribbean. There aren't many places in the world where St. Patrick's Day is an actual national holiday, but this little island in the Caribbean is one of them. It's known as the "Emerald Island of the Caribbean" because it was founded by Irish refugees, but the celebration on the island is probably the only one in the world that actually celebrates an uprising against the Irish as well as celebrating Irish heritage. In 1768, a group of slaves rebelled against their Irish masters on St. Patrick's Day but were defeated. These days, dancers in parades carry whips and do mock-Irish dance steps to represent the slaves mocking their masters.
6. Dublin, Ireland. Up until relatively recently, Dublin really wasn't the place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. That is, if "celebrate" means "booze it up" to you. Being a Saint's Day, it was considered a Holy Day of Obligation for Roman Catholic Irish and was solemnly observed - no marching bands and no Guinness at 6 a.m. But Dublin knows a good thing when it sees it, and the American tradition of drunken revelry has spread to their tourism industry. These days, if you want to see a two-hour parade that involves robots, marching polar bears, bees and marching bands from as far away as the U.S. and Japan, Dublin should be your destination.
7. Chicago. You want a green river? Then this is the place to be. The river is dyed the day of the parade, and, "just like recipe for Coca-Cola," the concoction used to make the river look mossy is a closely guarded secret (so says the website). The annual parade has been held since 1843, but the river has only been dyed since 1962.
8. Birmingham, England, hosts the biggest St. Patrick's Day parade in Britain "“ in fact, the parade organizers claim it's the third biggest in the entire world (after New York and Dublin). And while their parade may not be quite as big as the one in New York, they do boast a bigger Feast Day cake. "The cake dwarfs New York's famous three tier green, white, and gold cake which is displayed at the world-famous Waldorf Astoria hotel for the annual parade," the website brags. Birmingham's cake is five tiers and stands 15 feet tall "“ but the bottom three tiers are fake. Should that count? Birmingham sure thinks so. "It was great to see us beating the Yanks on St. Patrick's Day at something," one of the webmasters wrote.
9. Montreal, Canada, celebrated its 186th consecutive St. Pat's parade last weekend. Although the day has been celebrated since 1759 by Irish soldiers of the Montreal Garrison, the first parade on record took place more than 60 years later. Sadly, a 20-year-old student was killed at the parade this year, crushed under the wheels of the float. Officials for the parade are reviewing the incident to determine how to handle next year's crush of people.
10. Seoul, South Korea. You may not immediately think "Erin Go Bragh" when you think of Seoul, but they've held a parade annually since 2001. Attendance was around 20,000 as of 2008 and has been growing in popularity ever since.
Do you have a St. Patrick's Day parade in your town? Have you been to any of these famous parades? Let us know about your experience in the comments.