‘We’re out here having a great time’: South Boston hosts annual St. Patrick’s Day parade


Arthur Mansavage

St. Patrick’s Day Parade crowd.

By Maddie Barron, Magazine Editor & Assistant Opinion Editor

On Sunday, attendees of the 2023 South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade did not need the luck of the Irish to have a good time. Spirits were high, both in feeling and drink, presumably keeping the crowd warm on a chilly March afternoon. 

The parade began almost three hundred years back, with the first festivities happening in 1737. Attendees lined up along West Broadway Street in South Boston to celebrate heritage and community. 

This year, the line of a Dunkin’ Donuts along West Broadway Street extended onto the sidewalks with Bostonians loyal to the chain waiting outside for their coffees before the parade began. One man lined up outside of the shop, Everton Bedroso, a 27-year-old from Brazil, donned a green glitter beard. He had been coming to the parade for eight years and loves to watch the day’s hijinks unfold, he said. 

“Last year was super crazy,” Bedroso said about the parade’s full-scale return after pandemic restrictions.

He fondly recalled people climbing on roofs, an activity that made a comeback this year as well. 

Parade-goers were seen climbing trees and waving Irish flags atop bus stops. Apartment windows along the route were huddled with viewers who were close enough to watch from their living rooms. 

The parade began Sunday at 1 p.m. with a cacophony of cheers from the crowd and sirens from the Boston Police and Fire Departments, followed by an appearance from Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and South Boston native and Massachusetts Congressman Stephen Lynch. City service workers including officers, firefighters, and paramedics trickled through as the afternoon went by, each earning their own moment of appreciation. 

Even the four-legged employees of the City of Boston had their own spotlight—six police horses galloped past the sounds of boisterous mock-neighing from the crowd.

Parade-goers and participants alike brought their pets, all of whom were fan favorites. A lone golden retriever dutifully followed behind a police horse in the parade, later followed by a group of Irish wolfhounds. A very disinterested corgi was seen popping its head out of a car window during the procession as well. 

Uniformed members from all six branches of the U.S. military stood atop large military-grade vehicles.

Theresa Peterson walked with the Boston University Army ROTC for her second year in the parade, celebrating her Irish heritage. She enjoys the anticipation associated with walking in the parade as a non-Boston native, she said. 

“It is so much fun,” Peterson said in an interview with The Beacon. “People get really excited.”

Service workers were also showing off their talents, like Connor Flynn, a piper for the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums. This year was his second time in the parade and despite the cold, Flynn marched on triumphantly, kilt and all.

Politicians brandished campaign posters as they waved to constituents. Boston City Council President Ed Flynn and his family attended, along with Boston City Councilor Erin Murphy, Massachusetts State Senator Nick Collins, and Massachusetts State Representative David Biele. 

Other dignitaries were spotted along the route. The crowns of Morgan Romano, the Miss USA titleholder; Annika Sharma, Miss Massachusetts; and Arcadia Ewell, Miss Boston; glimmered against the sun. Each woman waved to the crowd from the backseats of convertibles.

There were plenty of selfie opportunities for the crowd from walkers in the parade. A leprechaun Grinch, a clown on stilts, and several comic book characters were more than willing to strike a pose. Tin men painted silver with the Northeast Regional Council of SMART Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 and giant lobsters with the Mobsters and Lobsters bus tour made sure to stop by every camera.

To keep the audience on their toes, some groups took the opportunity during stops to do street performances. Several dancers with Woods School of Irish Dance showed their expertise in the art of Irish dancing, and Zello Dance Studios of Peabody, Massachusetts did a hip-hop number.

A more daring intermission came from the Aleppo Drifters, a Shriners group of two-wheel bike drifters who expertly moved between each other like it was a choreographed dance itself. 

Twenty-year-old Youssef Massoud was among the crowd, surrounded by friends and laughing.

“I’m feeling amazing. I’m really happy [and] the vibes are great,” he said. “We’re out here having a great time.”

The HVAC Pipefitters Local 537 union had dozens of members and their families waving to the crowd and tossing shamrock necklaces from the back of a festive semi-truck. People near and far extended their hands high into the air to catch the memorabilia. 

The trade union has lasted for generations, according to member Chris Keogh, 28, whose father and grandfather are both members in addition to his brothers, uncles, and cousins. It was his first time back since the onset of the pandemic.

“It’s a good day to get out and keep the tradition alive,” Keough said of the parade.

In the event of haunted happenings interrupting the procession, Ghostbusters United rolled down West Broadway Street, tossing marshmallows to the crowd. 

The group shares a love for the Ghostbusters franchise and dresses up in full ghost-busting gear to raise money for charity.

Joshua Himelrick, a member of Massachusetts Ghostbusters, said the Massachusetts branch has raised $35,000 for pancreatic cancer research since 2015, and donated to Baystate Children’s Hospital and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Members from all over New England, New York, and New Jersey traveled to unite—an annual tradition since 2010. 

“We don’t get to see everybody like this in one setting, so it’s nice to have the parade bring us together,” said Himelrick.

Also in attendance was his 10-year-old son, Nolan, who led the group during the parade.

Amanda Harris, 36, was visiting Boston from New York City, celebrating her belated birthday at the parade and visiting her daughter who attends college in the area.

Harris loved the people she met during her trip and found the Boston community to be welcoming.

“[Bostonians] are very nice, as opposed to New Yorkers. They’re awesome,” she said. “It’s definitely a different experience. I love the vibe. I love the crowd.”

The crowd was a sea of green, largely thanks to novelty shirt booths run by people like Richie Brooks from South Boston, who is Irish. He loves the day of the parade because “everyone’s happy” and it’s an opportunity to be with his community and make money, he said. 

A constant influx of live music spanning from independent bands and singers like Irish folk band The Dooley Brothers and Dalton & the Sheriffs, to the young talents of grade school brass marching bands serenaded the crowd. Masses of people were singing along to classic songs like “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver.

Some bands were local, including the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Band, Drill, and Honor Guard Team and the Thomas J. Kenny Elementary School marching band. Other students traveled from afar, including states such as New Jersey and Florida.

Charities including Cops for Kids with Cancer were on the parade route, as well as advertising businesses such as Doordash and Guinness Beer.

The historical Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum took parade-goers to the past with their colonial costumes. Thrown from the float were blocks of tea and tea bags from the museum. 

“The British are coming!” yelled one person from the crowd, prompting laughs and inciting echoes of the Massachusetts-born phrase. 

The parade’s encore was a procession of about one dozen multicolored Jeeps, covered in green tinsels, shamrocks, and bumper stickers. BPD motorists escorted the tail end of the parade to the end of the route, signaling the parade’s end. 

The crowd dwindled around 4 p.m. and either went home, headed to the bars, or stumbled their way to the nearest restaurant. The area became a ghost town and empty sidewalks were left littered with bottles of alcohol, crushed beer cans, abandoned bead necklaces, and mysterious spills—relics of the day’s festivities.