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‘It’s a great time to be in Boston:’ Revelers celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in South Boston

Parade kicked off early Sunday afternoon, but the celebration started early

Members of the Boston Police Gaelic Column marched in this year's St. Patrick's Day parade.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

South Boston rang out with the sounds of cheering crowds as marchers with the St. Patrick’s Day parade turned the neighborhood into a raucous celebration Sunday afternoon.

Revelers thrilled at the sight of marching bands, floats, and a few costumed characters performing acrobatics amid a sea of green and orange.

“It’s St. Patrick’s Day,” said Maddie Vinjng, 22, during the parade. “It’s a great time to be Irish, it’s a great time to be in Boston, it’s a great time to be alive.”

Much of the day was gorgeously sunny, perfect for a party, albeit windy and chilly. A million people had been expected to attend and throngs packed trains and subways as people made their way to the parade.


The parade is organized by the South Boston Allied War Veteran Council, and is meant to honor St. Patrick’s Day and the city’s deep Irish roots, military veterans, and Evacuation Day, when British forces fled Boston during the Revolutionary War.

Governor Maura Healy shook hands with South Boston native Karen Foley during the parade Sunday. Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

In the past, Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade courted controversy around long-standing opposition to allowing members of the LGBTQ community from openly participating in the event.

As late as 2017, then-organizers were still trying to block a group of LGBTQ veterans from participating in the parade. By the following year, the parade had started welcoming LGBTQ veterans.

In a sign of how far the parade has moved on from its ignominious history, Governor Maura Healey — the state’s first openly gay governor — helped kick off the festivities.

It’s also a heck of a party.

Deirdre and Cian McCarthy, who are originally from County Cork in southern Ireland and moved to Newton recently, brought their 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son to Sunday’s parade.

They arrived early to get a good spot to watch the marchers, with their children decked out in appropriately festive attire sent from an aunt back home: Irish flag capes, shamrock-shaped glasses, and emerald green beads around their necks.


“I think Boston is more Irish than Ireland,” Deirdre McCarthy quipped to a Globe reporter.

Members of the Berkeley Preparatory School Pipe and Drum Corps from Tampa, Fla., performed at the annual St. Patrick's Day parade. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Michael Lawson, 22, came into Boston for the parade from Billerica with several friends. Lawson admitted that he was only “half Irish” — but said this weekend, it didn’t matter.

“It’s tradition,” he said. “To carry it down and celebrate and support your heritage. Everyone has their own holidays, sure, but everyone’s Irish on St. Paddy’s Day.”

Ian Ganley of Somerville was one of the few on a Red Line train to walk off alone Sunday morning — except for the case of Guinness he was carrying.

“It’s good for the heart, and good for the soul,” he said, grinning.

Boston police had a visible presence Sunday, with scores of uniformed officers along the parade route. Boston police had made four arrests as of late Sunday afternoon, according to Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a police spokesman.

In the days leading up to the parade, authorities warned people not to use it as an excuse for public drinking. Liquor stores, bars, and restaurants were required to close early Sunday in South Boston.

Despite the warnings, many people were drinking along the route and on the subway Sunday.

A man carried milk jugs that were labeled "borg" at the parade. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

A group of Boston University students on a Red Line train heading to the parade Sunday morning cheered on a classmate who chugged a beer as passengers watched. Just before the train arrived at the Broadway station, his shirt soaking wet, he declared to the crowd: “I’m a bloody mess!”


Some walked the South Boston streets carrying borgs — the nickname given to a “blackout rage gallon,” a concoction of hard booze, water, and electrolytes, mixed together in a gallon jug. Recipes for the drinks have spread on social media and are popular on college campuses.

Mia Wheeler, 20, of Gloucester showed up with her friends toting a borg made of vodka mixed with an electrolyte mixture, while acknowledging it wasn’t a very “Irish” concoction.

For other revelers, including many first-timers, Sunday was a chance to enjoy the sunshine and the parade itself.

Emily Albergo of Allston crossed her legs and leaned back comfortably on a green inflatable couch on the sidewalk of West Broadway.

“We found this spot, so we just wanted to chill here,” she said.

Angela Sughrue, 39, drove down from Maine to watch the parade. She missed last year’s celebration, she said, and wanted to make sure she was able to attend this time. She loves the bagpipes played during the march — and even the crowds.

“The people watching is great,” she said.

By 4 p.m., the parade had wrapped up, and crowds were making their way out of South Boston. About a dozen officers on bicycles herded hundreds of students from Medal of Honor Park; many young people sipped from beer cans, the smell of tobacco and cannabis hung in the air.


Left behind along the parade route were broken bottles, empty borgs, and Lucky Charms cereal boxes. Street crews raced to pick up the garbage before the wind could.

Parade-goers react to a marcher taking a shot of alcohol during the parade Sunday.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Daniel Kool can be reached at daniel.kool@globe.com. Follow him @dekool01. Camilo Fonseca can be reached at camilo.fonseca@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @fonseca_esq. Bailey Allen can be reached at bailey.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @baileyaallen.