Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day parade — one of the busiest in the country — returns Friday at 10:30 a.m., when thousands of revelers will line the streets and squares of downtown for the event, which first began in 1824.

The Savannah St. Patrick’s Day parade will pass by several downtown squares, including Lafayette Square, where the fountain’s water has been dyed green. The parade will begin after morning mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, seen here in the background.
(Credit: Benjamin Payne / GPB News)

But some are already staking out spots, and persevering through the cold that comes with it.

“Last night it got down to 36 degrees,” said Trey Parrish, who set up camp Wednesday evening at Lafayette Square to reserve a prime viewing spot for his family. “The coldest I ever had was 21 degrees, And that year my dad actually had to go home because of his neck and problems with the cold.”

Fortunately for parade-goers, the National Weather Service has forecasted Friday to be the warmest day all week in Savannah, with a high near 77 degrees under mostly sunny skies.

This year’s parade will be the first in which bars and restaurants will serve alcohol in specially designed aluminum “to-go” cups that can be kept as souvenirs or recycled.

Parrish’s advice for first-time attendees?

“There are traditions here that are probably older than you are, so just keep that in mind when you want to get a good spot for the parade,” he said. “There’s families out here that have been doing this for a long time, and we love to work with new people. We love to invite them in and get them a good spot behind our group so that their kids can still go to the front and watch the parade with our kids.”

The 42-year-old Parrish himself has been coming to the parade every year since he was a kid. Technically, since before he was a kid: “Mom was eight months pregnant with me, and that was my first St. Patty’s Day.”

According to the event’s committee, the parade consists of about 280 “units” — among them floats, families, soldiers, and bands.

And although things may get rowdy at times — as the Georgia Department of Economic Development estimates that the parade draws roughly 400,000 visitors — Parrish urges everyone to be respectful and kind.

“There’s no room for fighting. There’s no room for becoming belligerent. It’s not just an excuse to get drunk. It’s about family, faith and fun.”

This story comes to Rough Draft Atlanta through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.

Benjamin Payne | GPB

Benjamin Payne is the Savannah-based reporter for GPB, where he covers Coastal Georgia.