History of Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day

What’s the Big Deal with St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah?

In the beginning, thirteen members of the local Hibernian Society, the country’s oldest Irish society, raised funds and invited local Irishmen to parade through the streets. This first public procession took place in 1824. Yet it was not until 1870 that the first true and recognizable St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah was created and it had bands and even a “Grand Marshal.” 

The parade which graces the streets in modern day Savannah is very different from the ones of yesteryear. It is now a 3-hour procession, which is organized by a committee of over 700 Irish-American members, which includes numerous organizations, marching bands, and even floats which amble on the streets on March 17th, rain or shine (or in the event that the 17th falls on a Sunday, the parade is held on Saturday the 16th). And there are waves of green attire and accessories everywhere the eye can see. This year they estimate that more than 300,000 people to be involved in the celebrations. And instead of one day of celebrations, we here in Savannah celebrate St. Patrick’s Day over 5 days with great festivities each and every day.

Some fun Savannah St. Patrick’s Day facts: 

  • Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is one the largest parades in the US, right next to New York City, Chicago, and Boston.
  • Three Presidents have visited Savannah during the celebration over the years including William Howard Taft, Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter, as well as Vice President Mike Pence in 2018. 
  • In 1903, twenty-five cadets from Benedictine Military School joined the parade, starting a tradition that continues today.
  • Ironically, St.Patrick’s Day is in close association with the Catholics, the first parade in Savannah was organized by Irish Protestants.
  • In the 1600’s the first Irish decedents stepped foot in Georgia. They traveled down from South Carolina and were mostly traders, trappers, and soldiers. The first real wave of Irish immigrants came to Savannah in 1830’s to assist in building the Georgia Railways.

Getting to the Festivities

Enjoy the best of both worlds when you stay on Tybee Island for St. Patrick’s Day! Tybee Island has accommodations to suit every group’s needs. Come for the weekend, enjoy the beautiful weather, watch the Parade in Savannah, then return to Tybee for some well deserved Tybee Time! Have a great time, and let someone else do the driving!  

Here is a list of the great St. Patrick’s Day celebration events:

Friday, March 6 – Greening of the Fountain in Forsyth Park at 12 pm. The Greening ceremony is one of Savannah’s biggest traditions. The Forsyth fountain turns the radiant and traditional green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. It is a great and memorable experience for all ages. This is a free event and open to the public. Make sure to bring your camera to capture this fun event.

Friday, March 6 – Planting of the Tree at 1:00 pm. A tree is planted each year to mark the occasion of the “Irish Season” and to give back to the Savannah community.

Saturday, March 14th – Tybee Island Irish Heritage Parade on Butler Avenue at 3:00 pm.  Join us and wear your favorite greens and enjoy this wonderful parade. There will be numerous floats, bagpipers, and community members and businesses marching in this event.

Monday, March 16th – SGT. William Jasper Memorial Procession and Ceremony at 4:00 pm. This event honors our armed forces. The procession begins at Johnson Square and travels south on Bull Street to Madison Square, the location of the ceremony.

Tuesday, March 17th – ST. Patrick’s Day Parade in Savannah at 10:15 am. Savannah’s 196th St. Patrick’s Day Parade will step off from the corner of Abercorn and Gwinnett Streets and wind through the historic downtown district.

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