The weather was brisk and biting Saturday, unlike last year when temperatures climbed into the 70s, but the spirit was equally willing and warm for the four-hour-long St. Patrick's Day parade.
The temperature was a chilly 36 when the parade began at 10 a.m. at Liberty Avenue and 11th Street and rose only a degree by noon. But at least the predicted rain and the possibility of snow never materialized during the celebration.
No one seemed to mind the cold, even those wearing shorts. Attendees at this parade have been so resilient and enthusiastic that even a blizzard 20 years ago that eventually dropped more than 2 feet of snow couldn't stop several hundred people from marching in an abbreviated edition of what organizers say is the country's second-largest St. Patrick's Day parade.
Thousands celebrate St. Patrick's Day at annual parade
The Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day Parade brings a crowd of thousands dressed in green to Downtown. (Video by Kalea Hall; 03/16/2013)
And, besides, even early on it appeared some parade-goers had imbibed enough "anti-freeze" to help them weather the weather.
Marching were 199 units -- everything from Irish dancers, Irish wolfhounds, Irish societies and Irish bagpipers to politicians, emergency responders, religious leaders and marching bands -- for a total of about 25,000 participants. Abe Lincoln even made an appearance. "Hey, great movie," someone shouted at him.
As always, green was the dominant color among the tens of thousands of parade-goers who cheered and grabbed for tossed candy, T-shirts and beads. Green colored so many things it was mind-boggling: hair and beards, boas, antennae, caps, hats, beads, nail polish, eye shadow, coats, pants, shirts, hooded sweatshirts, bagels, sunglasses, earrings and tutus -- yes, tutus. Even the parade coordinator was Green -- Jim Green.
And, of course, there was green beer at the "Irish Fair in the Square," a party from 2 to 5:30 p.m. in Market Square with nine vendors serving the de rigueur beverage to those who provided identification at one of four carding stations and received a hand stamp and wristband.
Along the parade route, red-haired Brian Conroy, 51, of Bethel Park followed his annual routine of growing his beard beginning at Christmas, dying it green for the St. Patrick's Day parade and afterward promptly shaving it off. Mr. Conroy -- joined by his wife, Karen, and their children Hannah, 13, Dillon, 11, and Madison, 9 -- was wearing a green hat and an "Irish City Pittsburgh" shirt with a four-leaf clover in the middle.
"We're Irish, we really enjoy the festivities," he said as his wife noted they had been attending for 13 consecutive years.
Deborah Casarcia of Plum, who was with her daughter, Genevieve, 11, stood along Grant Street, waiting for another daughter, Nicolette, 15, to come marching by as part of a soccer team sponsored by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. She said they came for the "excitement. Everyone is so enthusiastic and spirited. It's a fun, family thing to do."
Wearing a green hat and a really fake green beard, Aaron Windle, 22, of Midland, joined fellow University of Pittsburgh friends along Grant Street for his first St. Paddy's parade.
"It seems like fun," he said, allowing that their next stop would be to a bar to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins play the New York Rangers.
Before the game, even the Rangers became part of the parade when a bus carrying the players to Consol Energy Center via Seventh Avenue briefly halted the procession at Grant Street.
As the parade proceeded down Grant, crowds became larger and more animated. Pittsburgh firefighters threw beads and T-shirts to hundreds who packed all five levels of a parking garage at Smithfield Street.
A little farther down the Boulevard of the Allies, staff from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh were selling coffee, doughnuts, clothing and novelties to fund scholarships.
The biggest sellers: Gloves, hats, earmuffs. Green, of course.
Michael A. Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1968. First Published March 17, 2013 4:00 AM