Thousands revel in annual St. Pat's festivities

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Family fun and a bit of alcohol-aided revelry filled the streets during yesterday's St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown.

From the giant walking glass of Guinness to the thousands of green metallic bead necklaces tossed to the crowd, there was something for everyone. Green felt hats. Green feather boas. Green plastic footballs. Green cotton candy.

"It seems to be a lot more family-friendly," said Mike Franklin, 45, of Hampton, after proudly watching his 8-year-old daughter, Grace, perform in the parade with her Irish dance group. "It's not the usual debauchery and people lying there and stepping over bottles -- at least so far."

City police made only a handful of arrests and issued numerous citations for underage drinking and other violations.

Wearing a green-and-white Santa hat and a glittery gold shamrock sticker on her cheek, 9-year-old Alana Price enjoyed the festivities.

"I like it when they throw the beads out," she said, huddling with her mom for warmth. "And the candy."

"It's pretty low key," said her mother, Sandy Price, 43, of Whitehall. "Nice turnout, nice weather and it's not too crazy."

Parade Committee Chairman Jim Green was pleased with Mother Nature and with the city's cooperation in recent years to make the parade more of a family affair.

"I've seen a lot more kids and a lot less drinking," said Mr. Green, who estimated the crowd at about 250,000.

Police estimated the crowd at about 150,000. ("We always exaggerate," Mr. Green said with a smile. "I'm sticking to 250,000.")

More than 20,000 people representing nearly 200 different groups participated in the parade. The air was crisp and clear for the 10 a.m. start at Mellon Arena, with people lined up along the parade route more than an hour before it began.

Maria Joseph, who made the trek to the parade from New Castle, was Downtown at 8 a.m.

"We had to get a good spot for the parade," said Ms. Joseph, 22. "It's my first experience, so it's fun."

Law enforcement, emergency services and politicians all were well represented in the procession. But the biggest crowd-pleasers proved to be groups featuring animals -- dogs and horses -- as well as bands, whether they had bagpipes or horns, and dancers.

The parade ran about five hours.

"I think if your last name began with an 'O,' you were in the parade," said Diane Lucas, 51, of New Kensington. "Too many politicians, but I loved the dancing."

Some also complained there was too much lag time between some of the parade groups.

A couple blocks off the parade route in the rock concert-street festival atmosphere of Market Square, about 3,000 people partied. The green beer flowed freely, filling many a foot-tall $8 glass.

Pittsburgh police arrested six people on charges of disorderly conduct, aggravated assault, resisting arrest, failure to disperse, simple assault, public drunkenness and indecent exposure for urinating on a public street, police spokeswoman Diane Richard said.

She said one 19-year-old man who was arrested for simple arrest punched a woman in the face and she suffered a small cut to her lip.

"Another guy was in the square fighting," she said.

The person charged with aggravated assault pushed an officer while trying to resist arrest. No one was injured.

Also, the Liquor Control Enforcement squad issued 65 citations for underage drinking, false identification and public drunkenness, Ms. Richard said.

For the most part, the atmosphere was relatively peaceful.

"The crowd in Market Square was orderly and those attending the festivities were respectful of one another," Ms. Richard said.

Angela Franco and other members of her dance group, Pburgh Footers, milled about Market Square in their bright costumes, taking in the energy.

Ms. Franco, dressed in a lime green boa, green straw cowboy hat, pink wig, bright green jacket, black shorts, black fishnet stockings and white boots, summed up the mood:

"It's fabulous. It's fun and relaxed."

L.A. Johnson can be reached at or 412-263-3903.


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