Originally created 03/18/03

Heavy rain was no match for event

The party must go on

Heavy rain thinned the crowd but did not deter St. Patrick's Day revelers in downtown Augusta on Monday.

In fact, it inspired new uses for umbrellas among children watching the parade.

Nat Prater, 11, of Augusta, was one of the intrepid young revelers. Instead of using it to fend off the rain, he used his small green umbrella to catch candy tossed by the many floats along Broad Street.

"We're here to support our city," said his father, Jerry. "We're still going to have a good time despite the rain."

Some former residents came back to Augusta for the festivities, such as the Rinker sisters.

Emily Rinker Stastny, now of Atlanta, and Debbie Rinker Gillespie, now of Oak Ridge, Tenn., stood in the torrent while parade floats, Shriner's clown cars and golf carts edged down the street.

"We're back here now as a sister team, and we are having a good time," Mrs. Stastny said.

Philip Ward, the grand marshal of the parade and a member of Augusta's Irish-American Heritage Society, said the parade was very successful despite the rain.

"The Irish are a different breed of people," said Mr. Ward, whose father was grand marshal for the Augusta St. Patrick's Day Parade 20 years ago. "This won't stop people from celebrating."

Also appearing in the parade were Shriners from Alee Temple in Savannah, who boycotted the Savannah parade because parade officials would not let all of the group's members march.

"There was a disagreement between the St. Patrick's Day parade organizers and us, and we did not want to exclude anybody," said Carl Veale, the captain of the Alee Patrol. "We enjoyed it, though, rain and all."

A nonalcoholic celebration was held at the Augusta Common during the afternoon and night, while after the parade, revelers could go inside to enjoy dancing and music at Ramada Plaza Hotel later in the day.

The Augusta Common event attracted only a small crowd, with about 30 people surrounding a stage at 6 p.m. as dancers performed. Mike Kennedy, who attended the event with his family, said it was still an enjoyable celebration despite the rain.

"It's a nice little area they've got down here," he said of the common.

Rain did force Jay Oldham, a vendor for the event, to close his booth early.

"I set up anticipating a big crowd, but what do you do?" he said. "It's just the weather."

Staff Writer Preston Sparks contributed to this article.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.


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