Every year on March 17th the world celebrates the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. Originally just an Irish holiday, St. Patrick’s Day is now not only a religious event, but also a cultural occasion. Originally just a religious day, it is now more associated with wearing green, leprechauns, shamrocks, drinking (Time magazine said it was the most drunk holiday in America after only New Years Eve), and of course parades. Almost 35 million Americans have Irish ancestors and because of this some of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world are in America. Like the saying goes, on Saint Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish, and considering there are 309 million people living in the United States it no wonder the holiday is so popular.
It’s hard to go anywhere in America without being able to find a St. Patrick’s Day parade somewhere close by, especially around the 17th of March, because almost every town, city, county and state claims to have the best. But only one can be the largest. An almost unlikely candidate is Hot Springs, Arkansas, which has its annual parade, billed as one of the shortest in the country, but still gets 30,000 people watching every year, almost the size of the entire town, and this makes it the 10th most attended in America; this year also marks its 10th anniversary. Syracuse, New York serves as the hub (outside of New York City) for the 2 million Irish-Americans living in the state of New York and since 1982 they’ve had their parade the Saturday closest to St. Patrick’s Day, which draws in over 30,000 people, making it the ninth biggest in the country. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania comes in at number eight, garnering 100,000 people every year to its parade. What’s more impressive about Philadelphia is that it’s been throwing the parade every year since 1771, which is the third oldest in America. San Francisco, California is the farthest city away from Ireland to be in the top ten (over 5,000 miles), but that doesn’t stop its 105,000 spectators from showing up every year to celebrate the holiday, as they’ve been doing since 1852, and is the seventh most attended in the country.
With over 700,000 fewer people living in its city compared to San Francisco, Scranton, Pennsylvania boasts the sixth most attended parade, getting 110,000 people. The parade is considered one of the best in the country with 12,000 participants including bag pipers, marching bands and floats, and has been going on since 1962. During the 19th century many immigrants from Ireland moving to America settled in Kansas City, Missouri which is one of the reasons it has the fifth largest parade on Saint Patrick’s Day. With 200,000 spectators annually the parade has become a grand occasion for the area since 1973, especially since the population of the city is less than 500,000. Savannah, Georgia may not be known nationally for Irish-Americans, but a great deal of them show up every year for their parade. Having a city population of just over 136,000, their annual parade draws in 750,000 people every year since 1824, and it also has the largest disparity of any other parade in regards to spectators verse city inhabitants, which is why it is the fourth most attended in the country.
Boston, Massachusetts has one of the highest concentration of Irish-Americans in the entire country, 25 percent, so it is no surprise that it’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is the longest running in the country, first celebrating the holiday in 1737, 39 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The parade takes place in South Boston every year and is also called the Southie Parade. Between 600,000 and one million people attend the parade every year as the entire city celebrates the holiday, and watches the third most attended parade in the country. Since 1843 the Chicago has held is annual St. Patrick’s Day weekend which celebrates the holiday with a festival that includes more than just a parade; dying the city’s river green is an annual and famous tradition. But the parade is nothing to write off either, it draws crowds of one million people annually and is the second most attended parade in the country.
With a population of over eight million people, it is not surprising that New York City hosts America’s largest of parades on Saint Patrick’s Day. The city has been throwing the parade since 1762 which is the second oldest behind only Boston. The parade is attended annually by over two million people making it by far the biggest parade in the country for St. Patrick’s Day and boasts 250,000 marchers every year up Fifth Avenue. No matter what town you’re in, big or small, there is sure to be a St. Patrick’s Day parade close by and they’re all great, but if you want to attend one of the biggest, then these ten are where you want to go. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Opinion by Chris Dragicevich