South Boston will be a sea of shamrocks as more than half a million people fill the streets for this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 18. Billed as the second-largest St. Patrick's parade in the country, this year's event will include more than 110 military units, more than 30 marching bands, horses, dignitaries, clowns and plenty of exciting stuff for kids.
"On that day everybody is Irish, and they all come out celebrating the Irish pride," says parade organizer Philip Wuschkey, who has been going to the parade since he was a kid himself.
The parade typically takes more than 21/2 hours to finish as it travels down West Broadway, turns onto East Broadway and zigzags to Dorchester Street before ending at Dorchester Avenue.
All along the way, folks will be packing the sidewalks, all decked out in green and shamrocks as the parade passes by.
In addition to the military units and bands that are the annual hallmark of the parade, Wuschkey says he's excited that this year, a WWII-era M18 Hellcat military tank will also be rolling through South Boston along with paratroopers and six jeeps. There's also a choir coming from Dublin, Ireland, a Michael Jackson impersonator, Star Wars characters, a dance troupe, and superheroes like Superman and Spider Man. Folks who love cool cars can look forward to a Gotham City police car and the Blues Brothers' Blues Mobile.
"We're trying to make it more family oriented," Wuschkey says. "But," he adds, "it's a military parade."
In fact, the parade also celebrates Evacuation Day on March 17, a Boston-area holiday that remembers the day in 1776 when British were evacuated from the city of Boston during the American Revolution. According to the South Boston parade's website, if anyone wanted to pass through the continental lines, the password was "St. Patrick."
"That's the beginning of our freedom," Wuschkey says. "If we didn't win that war, where would we be?"
Up north in Manchester, N.H., the St. Patrick's Day Parade is later in the month, taking place on Sunday, March 25. More than 70,000 spectators will line the one-mile route along Elm Street to watch bands, color guards, police units and fire trucks roll down Elm Street.
In addition to watching the festivities, parade-goers are also encouraged to bring non-perishable food items that will be collected during the parade for local food pantries.
Whether you head down to Boston, drive up to New Hampshire or stay local, there are lots of ways to feel the Irish pride this year.
"It's fun," Wuschkey says. "That's what we try to do; make it an enjoyable day for family, a day out, a day to hopefully enjoy a great parade."