Spring hasn’t sprung yet, but there was plenty of green sprouting in Spokane on Saturday as thousands of people crowded downtown for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Green horses, green hair, men with green beards wearing green kilts, green beer, green socks.
For 32 Marches, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick have organized the annual celebration, transforming the streets into an emerald sea of Irish pride – even for those not of Irish decent.
“Everybody has a Celtic background on this day,” said David Starr, who stood in line waiting to get into O’Doherty’s Irish pub on Spokane Falls Boulevard before the start of the noon parade. Starr donned his Scottish family kilt, and a T-shirt emblazoned with the insignia of the Irish punk band the Dropkick Murphys.
“The Scots and Irish are close cousins,” he said. In addition to celebrating “his holiday,” Starr was also celebrating his 50th birthday.
“This is just nuts,” said his fiancée, Regina Brown, who wore a shirt with some green flowers, but that was about it for the color. “He had to break me in gradually.”
Parade organizers said this year’s event may be the largest ever, with an estimated 65,000 people. There were more than 165 pre-entries for the parade, said Pat O’Connor, president of the Friendly Sons.
“This is really the celebration of spring,” O’Connor said. “I think everybody is tired of the snow and the cold and they want to get outside and bring their kids out for the day.” Temperatures hovered around 45 degrees, but the sun was out, shining down on the sea of green.
While the adults imbibed their hops and barley, candy was the name of the game for children, who crowded curbs to receive treats flung from parade floats.
“It’s great,” said 7-year-old Alex Mendoza, decked out in a green shamrock tie as long as he was tall and a flashing shamrock necklace. Mendoza and his family are proof you don’t need to be Irish to enjoy the celebrations around St. Patrick’s Day, which isn’t until Wednesday.
“We always say on Cinco de Mayo people celebrate who aren’t Mexican,” said Mendoza’s mother, Jessica Torres. She was joined by boyfriend Juan Orozco, and their daughter Araceli Orozco, 4.
“So today I’m Irish,” said Orozco. “It’s just something fun to do.”
They watched as green trucks with the “Irish Woman of the Year” and “Irish Principal of the Year” – Sue Unruh from Spokane’s Arlington Elementary School – floated by. Garco Construction presented a flatbed truck with live music by the Celtic Nots.
The parade got noisier, however, near the end of the parade route, where O’Doherty’s is situated.
A line to get in extended around the block, as the pub overflowed with a wee bit o’ the Irish. Revelers crowded the outdoor patio clutching pitchers and plastic cups full of green Budweiser. Some had been there since early morning to score a coveted spot.
“It’s a holiday for everyone,” said Chad Bucher, who pronounces his last name “Boo-shay.”
“He thinks he’s French,” teased friend Adam Metzger. The pair, along with friend Makena Busch, had a front-row view of the parade from O’Doherty’s street side location.
“My mom keeps telling me that green beer makes you sicker,” Busch said. “I don’t believe her. But I guess we’ll see.”