Eight-year-old Roger Samedo, who lives along the route of South Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, could barely contain his excitement Sunday afternoon as he collected beads, lollipops, and other tokens from marchers.
It is his favorite holiday, he said.
“I like everything,” Samedo said, “the candy, the music, the entertainment.”
Thousands packed South Boston streets and gathered at windows and on porches to watch the marchers: police, firefighters, veterans, Star Wars characters, politicians, pirates, step dancers, bag pipers, union members, Ghostbusters, and more.
Many sought higher ground to see over crowds.
“People keep on walking by and saying, ‘That’s gross,’ but we said, ‘That’s the best seat in the whole house,’ ” said South End resident Isabelle Lew, 25, as she stood upon the grimy rear running board of a recycling truck.
South Boston has hosted a parade since 1901, but Sunday was the first for 8-month-old Pattrick Flaherty — with two T’s.
“We had to be creative,” said mom BriAnna Touchette, 25, who lives in Roxbury, Maine, with Pattrick’s father, Justin Flaherty, 26. She said they come each year for the holiday.
“It’s a family tradition,” she said. “It’s like our Christmas for St. Patrick’s Day.”
Boston police Superintendent Daniel P. Linskey patrolled the route early Sunday afternoon, sniffing revelers’ cups for alcohol and pulling beer cans out of backpacks. Officers followed, writing citations for those caught drinking.
“For the most part, we’ve got a responsible crowd here for a family event,” Linskey said.
By 6:45 p.m., police had issued 336 citations for drinking in public and arrested 26, mostly for disorderly conduct, according to a post on the department website. In 2012, police issued 244 citations for public drinking and arrested eight.
Outside Southie Liquors around 2:30 p.m., a line stretched more than 20 feet down the block as revelers stocked up before the city-imposed 4 p.m. closing time for neighborhood package stores and 7:30 p.m. for bars.
On side streets, many carried cases of beer, and some drank openly from cans. Near the corner of Dorchester Avenue and West Fourth Street, vomit puddled on the sidewalk.
Around 2 p.m., an officer stopped a man near D Street to warn him about inappropriate behavior. He closed the admonishment with a handshake, and the two parted ways.
Large crowds on the Red Line caused the MBTA to direct some trains to bypass Broadway Station, at the start of the route, and ask parade-bound passengers to exit at Andrew Station, near route’s end. MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said this is common on parade days.
“With the extraordinarily heavy volume experienced today, such service adjustments are made in the interest of public safety,” Pesaturo said in an e-mail.
Revelers sported green clothing, hats, ties, wigs, dyed hair, and glasses — some shaped like shamrocks or beer mugs. A few marchers wore head-to-toe green bodysuits, and a man with a shaved head sported a green rubber mohawk.
Jamaica Plain resident Kim Strahan wore elaborate holiday gear, as did cousin Erin Sinopoli and her husband Anthony Sinopoli, first-time parade-goers from Charlotte, N.C.
Many had similar green hats and beads, but few could match the women’s facial hair.
“The mustache is a definite ice-breaker,” Erin Sinopoli, 30, said as a passerby complimented her fuzzy, green, stick-on lip-whiskers.
Tim McLaughlin, 35, lives in Charlestown with his wife, Katherine Rork.
He said he has been at the parade every year he can remember, except 2003, when he led a Marine tank platoon in the Iraq invasion. The family spent Saturday in New York, where pages from his Iraq War diaries are exhibited at the Bronx Documentary Center.
“It’s so important to remember veterans for their actual service, as opposed to the Hollywood version,” he said.
As the traditional parade concluded and crowds began to disperse, the third annual alternative Veterans for Peace parade opened with a New Orleans-style jazz band.
Participants held signs supporting the end of foreign wars and release of soldier Bradley Manning — jailed on accusations of supplying classified documents to the website WikiLeaks — and opposing the Keystone Pipeline project.
Veterans for Peace parade coordinator Pat Scanlon said he was frustrated that the Allied War Veterans Council of South Boston, organizers of the main parade, did not let his group march with them but was pleased with the way the peace parade was treated.
“The whole thing about South Boston has changed: the neighborhood, the culture, the people. It’s much more integrated and inclusive than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “I think everybody here had a good time, and I’m really thrilled to see the LGB community walk in South Boston and have such a wonderful reception.”
Lisa Santagate, a second-grade teacher from Chelsea, waved, cheered, and whooped for the Veterans for Peace marchers.
“I guess we have to decide what a parade is about,” she said. “And if a parade is an opportunity to celebrate on a public street, then everybody should have an opportunity to do that.”
Street sweepers followed the first parade. Veterans for Peace said last week the city had backed out of an agreement to delay sweeping until after its parade to avoid dispersing crowds.
Federal Judge Robert B. Collings ruled last week the city is not required to sweep between parades, but may choose to.
The city had said it was reviewing that ruling. But Sunday night, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino said it was her understanding that the city had planned to sweep the way it always did — after the first parade.