March 2009

St. Patrick’s Day Parade Tips & Cautions!

Author: Paul deVere

No, not the one in New York (the biggest) nor Savannah (biggest in the South). It’s the Hilton Head Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration. Dozens of floats, thousands of people, in excess of 50 distinguished members of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department and the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Yes, THAT parade.

In its 26th year, the parade usually draws about 15,000 family folks and several people (possibly members of those family folks) who take to heart the old Irish axiom: “To sip is commendable, to guzzle is divine.”

There are a variety of ways you can enjoy this fun outing, which kind of resembles a rather large block party with several thousand of your closest friends. The following are tips for both the tipplers and non-tipplers (you know who you are):

1. Fifty distinguished members … Let’s say you’re using the island’s parade as a practice round for the big Savannah gig on March 17. If you’re thinking this is going to be one, long Margarita, reread the third sentence in the first paragraph—the phrase that begins, “in excess of 50 distinguished members…”

2. Port-A-Potties. Yes, there are Port-A-Potties along the parade route. Will you be near one that is available when you REALLY NEED TO GO? Nope. Take care of business before you begin your trek to the parade and/or control your intake of the Guinness.

3. Designated Drivers. A note of caution on Designated Drivers. A. Your 13-year-old daughter is not a good choice. The designated driver should have a valid driver’s license. B. Even if of age, it is always a good idea to make sure your designated driver has no DUI charges pending. Play it safe. C. Also, make sure everybody knows who the designated driver is, especially The Designated Driver.

4. Children. Children love parades, no matter what age. However, here are some helpful hints to make this cherished Sunday afternoon event less memorable: A. If the child is under three, he/she will be terrified of the fire engine when it honks and will soil his/her pants (this is experience talking). Be prepared. B. If the child is under age 10, he/she will, without exception, attempt to distract you when the bagpipers (or whatever your favorite part of the parade is) are about to pass by. This distraction can be a bloody nose, a desperate need to use the Port-A-Potties (see above), stress fractures of various limbs, etc. Your response? Tell him/her to “suck it up, kid.” C: If the child is under age 18, he (Note: the “she” child will not be hungry, she be walking up and down the parade route “twittering” to her list of approved “followers” who are walking right next to her, reading her “tweets.”) will want food, any food, in quantity. First, explain to him it is inappropriate to fight with a nine-year-old over a mini-Snickers bar. Second, if the nine-year-old wins the fight, reassure your child that you’ll gladly pay up to $289.72 (all that remains on your credit card after you bought your entire family some dumb looking, metallic green leprechaun hats on the Internet last week) on chicken wings if he would just get out of the *** way so you can see the *** bagpipers! It’s been two *** hours! (Or words to that effect.)

5. Location. The parade starts at the public beach parking lot near Coligny Circle, goes approximately seven tenths of a mile up Pope Avenue and hangs a left at the new Office Park Road. That’s where the reviewing stand is. That’s where all the bands and other acts, like the bagpipers, strut their stuff. And that’s where all 15,000 of your neighbors WANT TO BE! You could get a good seat there if: A. You are the Grand Marshall; B. Put folding chairs out Saturday evening and arrange for family members to take turns occupying the seats for the next 18 hours. C. When you put your folding chairs IN FRONT of the people who have been waiting 18 hours, you are able to turn a deaf ear when a large number of small children begin to cry, “Daddy, I can’t see! Those big people …”
However, if you really want to have fun, go down to where the parade is forming. The excitement is palpable, the chaos is marvelous, and you will be incredibly impressed that out of the green bedlam of funky cars, marching bands, town officials and Shriners, such a beautiful display of community spirit worms it way up Pope Avenue.

Yes, on Hilton Head Island, everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, even St. Patrick, who just happened to be French.

Éireann Go Brách: Dr. Jack McConnell Named Grand Marshall!

The St. Patrick’s Day parade committee named islander Dr. Jack McConnell the Grand Marshall for 2009. Among his considerable accomplishments, McConnell is the founder of Volunteers In Medicine (VIM), a free clinic staffed by volunteer medical professionals for people living or working on Hilton Head who cannot afford health care. There are now 71 clinics in 22 states modeled after VIM.

The parade is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., Sunday, March 15. Listed as one of the Top 20 Tourism Events in the Southeast for the month of March, the parade is really about community. “The parade really made people understand we are not only a resort town, we’re a hometown,” said Betty Dirosse, the parade’s publicist. “The parade is always kind of a sign of spring. Pope Avenue becomes a pedestrian mall and people wave to people they haven’t seen in a while. It’s like telling them, ‘Look, I’m still here.’”

Initiated by restaurateur, Tom Reilley, 26 years ago, as something of a lark, the parade took on a life of its own. Depending on the weather (the parade goes on, rain or shine), as many as 20,000 people will line Pope Avenue.

Like last year, there will be representatives of the U.S. Army from Ft. Stewart, Georgia, including Humvees and a color guard. They are appearing as a “thank you” to Hilton Head Island residents and the local organization, “Operation R&R.” Through this organization, island property owners and businesses have provided a virtually free vacation to over 140 military families in which a spouse has served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The parade starts on the south side of Pope Avenue at the entrance to the public beach parking lot and moves up Pope to Office Park Road. Then it turns left and ends at Park Plaza.

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