The piercing sound of bagpipes, marching bands, police sirens and raucous crowds reverberated through downtown Savannah on Friday morning, as thousands of Georgians and tourists alike turned out for the city’s raucous St. Patrick’s Day parade, one of the busiest in the country.

“Our heritage runs so deep here,” said Greg Barfield of Savannah, who attended the parade with his wife, Karilena. “It’s special.”

“It’s a whole week affair,” said Karilena Barfield, who used to be in the parade when she was a child. “You start prepping for it, and then you get to spend the entire day from sunup to sundown with your favorite people. I think it’s a big community event, too. I mean, it takes forever to plan.”

Daphanie Dawkins traveled from Lawrenceville, Ga., for her first time at the parade.

“I’m here today in Savannah to get a whiff of what it’s like to be Irish, and what St. Patrick’s Day is all about,” she said.

Also new to the parade were Jennifer and Darrell Owemby, who’d made the seven-hour drive from Knoxville, Tenn.

“I’m a McDermott from my family, so this is their tradition,” Jennifer Owemby said.

“All of the pomp and circumstance that goes with it — it’s a wonderful celebration,” her husband Darrell Owemby said.

This was Savannah’s second St. Patrick’s Day parade since the COVID-19 pandemic began, which led the city to cancel the parade in 2020 and 2021. The city resumed the parade last year, although to a muted turnout.

Savannah’s is among the busiest parades in the country, as the event draws roughly 400,000 visitors, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Nearly 400 police officers were on duty, according to the parade’s committee.

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.