Parade launches St. Patty's party

Ashley Rapp (left) and Jenny Babcock drink in the beer garden at the St. Patrick's day celebration on March 12, 2011, in San Francisco, Calif. Jasmine Beaghler / staff photographer

If green is your favorite color, you love finding pots full of gold coins and you have four-leaf clovers in your yard, then you’re already prepared for the greenest holiday of the year.

On March 12, San Francisco hosted its annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which marched its way through downtown to City Hall. Crowds of green-clad individuals of all ages lined both sides of the road as early as two hours before the event on curbs, trashcans and lawn chairs in order to stake out a good spot.

As the crowds gathered to start the preemptive celebration of upcoming Saint Patrick’s Day this Thursday, it was plain to see that a majority of the spectators were not in fact Irish, though Humboldt State senior and music major Chris Werner said that didn’t matter on this holiday.

“Everyone becomes Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, even if it’s just the green, so live it up,” Werner said.

Tom Dugan, who claimed to be 99 percent Irish with two Irish grandmothers and one Irish grandfather, said that the parade and other San Francisco events celebrating his heritage made it the best time of the year.

“I’m Irish, so I love this every year that I come because of the old fire engines, all the different historical troops, and the awesome music,” Dugan said. “I want to thank San Francisco for bringing me events like this.”

One of the leading historic groups was the Bushmill’s Irish Pipers Band of San Francisco. This band was formed in 1932 and pays tribute to Irish songs and heritage. Wes Weber, a member of the Pipers, said that his enjoyment of the holiday is not about Irish pride.

“It doesn’t mean all that much to me because I’m Scottish,” Weber said. “What my favorite part about it all is, is that we get lots of free beer because we get a lot more gigs this time of year.”

Although he loves the job’s free perks, music is still his passion.

“I love piping and I love to compete alongside this team,” Weber said. “The thing about piping is that it is hard to find, but once you find it you will never get rid of it.”

At City Hall, the end of the parade route, the festival swelled to considerable size. The event featured live entertainment, various kinds of food – from Italian sausage to chocolate-covered bacon – and a beer line perhaps longer than the parade itself.

Bands that took that stage included Culann’s Hounds, a hard-rocking Irish-traditional band, and Lucia Comnes, a violinist and singer who can sing in 30 different languages

A vast number of spectators of all ages  enjoyed the variety of activities and booths which were available to them.

For the kids, the festivities included a petting zoo, pony rides and a bounce house. For the adults, multiple seating areas were provided along with an extra beer garden, an open area which sold alcoholic drinks, so that nobody’s Saint Patrick’s Day would run dry.

After the parade, spectators had mixed reviews.

“On a scale of one to 10, I would probably give this parade a six,” said spectator Kathy Geer. “Not enough music was played, and it all seemed to rush by because the parade wasn’t long enough this year.”

Prior to the start of the parade, the floats, marchers and other assorted vehicles lined up along Second Street in the order they were assigned to march. Volunteers known as “marshals” organized the marchers, rushing up and down the line getting things together.

While still a tough job, many marshals found great joy in their position.

“Yeah we organize them, and you know it’s like trying to herd cats,” said Vietnam War veteran and parade marshal Richard Treat. “It’s fun though. You get to meet new people, and you get to see the floats up real close and personal.”

Along with the musical acts and floats the Saint Patrick’s Day parade included highly-esteemed public officials such as District Attorney George Gascon, district seven supervisor Sean Elsbernd, and district four supervisor Carmen Chu.

The vast number of bagpipes that sounded at the beginning of the parade, made it seem as if parade-goers were in an IMAX theater and the bagpiping was in Dolby surround sound.

However, not all the bands that played bagpipes: One of the marching band groups that stood out was the Humboldt State Lumberjacks scatter band, including Werner. Wearing T-shirts that said “Kiss My Axe,” the band played songs like Cee-lo Green’s “Forget You” and “I Got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas.

“Playing music is fun,” Werner said. “You get to make all kinds of connections with all kinds of great people,”

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