Sunny South Boston parade brings peaceful party

Children are pictured on a float in front of St. Patrick on the parade route.
Children are pictured on a float in front of St. Patrick on the parade route. –Patrick D. Rosso/Globe correspondant

Green was on every street corner Sunday as tens of thousands of revelers thronged South Boston for the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Green shamrocks topped green floats packed with revelers in Kelly green hats.

Mostly peaceful if not extraordinarily well attended, the sprawling event this year was helped by warm, cloudless weather that drew paradegoers to practically every inch along the route.

None seemed happier to be there than Mike Place, a native Rhode Islander, who drove overnight from a separate celebration in Virginia so he could sell green T-shirts, vuvuzela horns, and ream upon ream of green plastic beads at the staple Southie event.


“I drove straight through to be here,’’ said Place, 34, his eyes hidden behind a pair of shining shamrock-shaped sunglasses. “I absolutely love it. I had the option to go to Savannah, Ga., but I skipped that to be here instead.’’

Cheers went up as a string of Boston Fire Department trucks sounded their sirens as the parade kicked off about 1 p.m. Side-streets teemed with celebrants, and roadways in and out of the area were shut or jammed with traffic. Excess enthusiasm was the order of the day, and made for a vibrant atmosphere.

Some still tested their limits, though.

Workers at Massachusetts General Hospital reported a higher-than-average number of visits to the emergency room over the weekend for alcohol-related issues.

Hospital spokeswoman Kory Dodd did not provide an estimate on the number of people treated in the ER, though she said the influx started on Saturday night and continued into Sunday.

“We had a lot of visits related to [the holiday weekend] and they said it was unusually high,’’ Dodd said.

One man, believed to be in his 20s, fell from a third-story roof at 96 G St. about 3:15 p.m. His condition was unknown, but a witness said he gave a double thumbs-up as police transported him from the scene.


Police, looking to curtail the fights, public drinking, and general rowdiness that marked previous parades as an adults-only affair, stood watch at nearly every street corner. Six were arrested, down from 11 last year, said Officer Nicole Grant, a Boston Police spokeswoman. As of 7 p.m., more than 200 had received citations, she said. Last year, 363 people were cited.

While bars were filled early with patrons eager for their first pint, many held off imbibing until after the annual Boys and Girls Club 5K run.

Megan Stephen, 35, said she ran at the request of her husband Rob, who turned 43 March 17. The Hopedale couple said they were more excited about having their first beverage after the 3.1-mile race than they were about participating in it.

“It was his birthday wish,’’ said Megan Stephen, before shooting a glance to her husband. “I think he’s trying to kill me.’’

Later in the afternoon, marchers in the St. Patrick’s Peace Parade anxiously waited on D Street for their turn to trundle down West Broadway, after organizers ordered them to remain a mile behind the official parade convoy.

The group Veterans For Peace led the procession and held white flags bearing a dove. The alternative parade’s ranks were inflated this year after the Occupy Boston movement galvanized dozens of like-minded locals, who joined up with faith and labor groups for the demonstration, said Cole Harrison, a spokesman for Massachusetts Peace Action.

Steve Demetriou, 56, a member of Occupy Maine from Portland who marched, praised the group’s solidarity.


“The establishment doesn’t want the boat rocked, and that’s what we’re here to do,’’ Demetriou said.

Others, meanwhile, were clearly there for the party.

J.J. Klimek, 26, said he and two friends drove seven hours from Buffalo to get their first Boston St. Patrick’s Day experience.

Tugging at a corner of his green boxer shorts from the waistband of a pale, outdated three-piece suit he bought at a thrift store, Klimek said he sported no fewer than eight shades of green.

“You can take my word for it,’’ he said, declining to prove the hue of his undergarments.

Asked if the empty beverage cup he held had contained anything other than iced coffee, Klimek smiled.

“Not yet,’’ he said.

But for many paradegoers — especially those who live in South Boston — the day was about seeing friends and socializing at neighborhood gatherings.

Chrissy Carifio and Lauren O’Connell, both 25 and South Boston residents, said they looked forward to a low-key celebration, and pointed out the logistical difficulties of partying on a Sunday.

“We have to work tomorrow, so we’re not trying to get too crazy,’’ O’Connell said.

As attendance peaked, though, people crammed every business that remained open on the rout. Long, pervasive lines snaked from pizza shops, sausage carts, bar entrances, and of course, the public restrooms.

The line outside Southie Liquors was no exception, to the frustration of John Brandt, 25

Brandt said he lives above the package store and pays rent to the owner, whose wife was checking drivers licenses at the door.

“Literally three-quarters of my paycheck goes here, and I can’t even get in the door to spend my money,’’ Brandt said, in mock frustration.

Taking two $5 notes from his pocket, he approached the entrance and held up the bills.

“$10 to cut the line?’’

Then, silence.

Not even the luck of the Irish could swing that one.

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