Posted At: March 25, 2013 1:25 P.M.
by Taylor Hodgkinson
On Saturday, March 16, our festively decked-in-green group made its way for the trolley to take us from Tybee Island, Ga., to Savannah’s highly anticipated 189th St. Patrick’s parade. Leading us was Savannah native and University of Alabama student Taylor Edgar, who has never missed her city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
The antique trolly transported us from the crashing waves and fresh ocean air of Tybee Island to the loud green celebrations on the streets of Savannah’s historic district. Sand still stuck in our shoes, we made our way through the quaint streets with Spanish moss draping the sidewalks. Cheers and bagpipes became white noise throughout Savannah.
Once we were dropped off, there was no confusion as to where the parade took place. It was more a question of where it began and where it ended.
Edgar, confident when cutting through the parade of marching policemen in Celtic skirts, was able to get our group of 16 across the parade’s path and to our destination.
As residents and visitors crowded the streets, Edgar was able to keep account of all of our friends while giving us the scenic tour of the historic district. At one intersection there was a cemetery honored with flowers, a family having a shrimp boil party welcoming all passers-by and a group of kids meeting to explore the city on their bikes.
St. Patrick’s Day is not just a day of Irish indulgences of whisky and Guinness, or the quintessential “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” T-shirt.
Director of Public Relations for Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce Erica Backus believes it is necessary to provide the true symbolism of St. Patrick’s Day.
“It’s important to communicate St. Patrick’s Day is more than just a rowdy, drinking party, which often travels by word of mouth. It’s also a religious holiday, full of Celtic traditions and Irish culture that can offer family activities, like the parade,” Backus said.
Backus and her co-workers also understand the influence St. Patrick’s Day has on tourism.
“During big events, like St. Patrick’s Day, when many tourists come to Savannah, there’s a greater need to focus on external communication,” Backus said.
Months leading up to the parade and shortly after, Backus is constantly meeting with travel writers to help ensure readers interested in Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration are familiar with the family-friendly festivities that encourage the celebrating of Irish culture.
Backus, unlike Edgar, did not grow up in Savannah, but loves St. Patrick’s Day traditions no less. One tradition an onlooker can immediately notice is red lipstick. Women with red lipstick leave the evidence on parade participants’ faces, as soldiers and veterans march by and are left with a kiss on the cheek to honor their service.
“I think my favorite part of [Savannah’s] St. Patrick’s Day parade is the expression on soldiers’ faces,” Backus said. “And the bright-red lipstick kisses covering a grinning soldier’s cheeks.”
Edgar’s fondest memories are of when she and her cousin would go to Savannah’s beach every weekend to visit their grandparents on Tybee Island.
Staying on Tybee Island, I now have a better understanding of the beauty in the simplicity of beach living. After being woken by the neighbor’s dog, I lounged on the beach with friends and relaxed in the cool breeze listening to Pandora’s beach jams. And although I didn’t find a much-coveted sand dollar that day, I understood how families and friends enjoy Savannah — families riding bikes along the shore and friends burying their feet in the sand just enjoying the company they’re in.
“Most tourists come to Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day, but often overlook Savannah’s outlining areas. Many don’t know Savannah has a beach [Tybee Island],” Backus said. “I enjoy Savannah because of its’ pace of lifestyle and natural beauty. So be sure to take advantage of what your hometown has to offer.”
People travel to witness St. Patrick’s Day, but if they’re lucky they’ll experience Savannah.