Augusta to celebrate all things Irish today

While Augusta's 34th annual St. Patrick's Day parade has its traditional Irish dancers, Celtic music and family floats, the celebration also makes room for a little bit of everything else, "because we're all Irish on St. Patrick's Day," said Jason Scherer, the parade chairman.

The parade starts at 2 p.m. today, followed by a celebration on the Augusta Common.

"The Irish American Heritage Society has hosted this thing since 1978," Scherer said. "It was started by Irish immigrants. They'd start their day with mass, go to the parade, then head to the Town Tavern, which became Malley's, but it's now closed. That's the only part that's changed. Everything else is the same, except bigger and better."

More than 100 entries float down Broad Street, drawing upwards of 50,000 people to downtown, he said.

This year's parade is led by Grand Marshall Jerry Armstrong, a charter member of the Irish-American Heritage Society of Augusta.

"It's a huge family deal," Scherer said. "There's a lot of local Irish heritage to celebrate."

The parade usually lasts 11/2 to 2 hours and runs rain or shine.

"If it rains, we pray people stay and we just plan to walk faster," Scherer said with a laugh.

He recommends spots off Telfair Street for those with kids looking to spread out. Locations along Broad Street tend to have the most energy.

"We're no doubt the longest parade in the city," Scherer said. "It draws a lot of people."

Most stay for the entertainment and games on the Commons, or specials at restaurants along Broad Street.

"Joes Underground does its corned beef and cabbage," he said. "The restaurants really get into it. It's a huge event."

Mike Anglin, owner of Tipsey McStumbles on Seventh Street, expects a full house.

"We're the only Irish pub in town," he said. "It'll be hot."

Who is St. Patrick?

Though he was not born Irish, St. Patrick is known as the patron saint of Ireland, because of his service to the country in the 5th century.

His real name was probably Maewyn Succat. Patricius was his Romanized name, and he came to be known as Patrick.

After escaping imprisonment from Irishmen who kidnapped him as a teenager, Patrick joined a monastery, where he studied for 12 years. After becoming a bishop, he returned to Ireland.

For 20 years, he established monasteries, schools and churches in Ireland. His ministry upset the Celtic Druids, and he was arrested many times.

By the end of the 7th century, Patrick had become a legend. It's been said that he would pick three-leaf shamrocks to teach about the Trinity, and once cursed the venomous snakes of Ireland, driving them into the sea.

Patrick died on March 17, 461.

Source: Augusta Irish American Heritage Society

St. Patrick's Day

WHAT: The 34th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade through downtown Augusta

WHEN: 2 p.m. today

WHERE: The parade starts in the James Brown Arena parking lot off Seventh Street and continues to Telfair Street, west to 11th, then turns right onto Broad Street, east to Sixth Street, and back to James Brown Arena.

LEARN MORE: AugustaIrish.com

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WHAT: A city-wide celebration including live entertainment, children's activities and vendors.

WHEN: 2 to 9 p.m. today

WHERE: Augusta Common, 836 Reynolds St.

CALL: (706) 821-1754

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