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Shortened route did not dim enthusiasm at the St. Patrick’s Day parade

Thousands of people swarmed South Boston on Sunday to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Thousands of people swarmed South Boston on Sunday to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade.(Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

People danced on the sidewalk alongside the marching bands Sunday afternoon as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade wound through the streets of South Boston, with Irish flags waving to the beat, candy soaring through the air, horns blaring, and crowds cheering.

“Breathtaking,” pronounced Ricky Sherlock, a Whitman resident who attends the parade for his late grandfather every year. “My grandfather used to come every year at 7:45 a.m. that parade morning to line up the chairs. He loved it.”

Officials including Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker, along with US Representative Stephen F. Lynch and City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who cohosted Sunday morning’s St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, joined veterans and South Boston residents making their way in the frigid air down Broadway. The proud parade marched down a route that was shortened due to last week’s nor’easter, which dumped 14.5 inches of snow on the city Tuesday. The parade route was also shortened in 2015 and last year because of snow.

The snow route appeared to have done little to diminish turnout or dim the enthusiasm of the crowds, who included several generations of families, military veterans, proud Irish-Americans, and those who just declare themselves Irish for the day, donning green clothing, green hats, green suspenders, green face paint, green sunglasses, and green false eyelashes for the occasion.

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Members of the US women’s ice hockey team, which won Olympic gold last month in PyeongChang, South Korea, paraded down the street, high-fiving people and letting them touch the medals around their necks. They were hailed with cheers of “USA, USA” from the crowd.

As the parade was starting, men in green perched in the windows of an apartment on Broadway and happily delivered Bud Light showers — pouring cans of beer on receptive participants below, who hooted and yelled with glee.

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“I love Boston,” yelled James Walton of Tewksbury as he walked away with a giant grin on his beer-soaked face. He had just tipped his head up, opened his mouth, and let the beer cover his scarf, his peacoat, and his hoodie.

Every year, said 46-year-old Charlotte McCormack, a South Boston resident for more than a decade, the parade feels a little different — and this year, she said, it felt more inclusive, both to those in the parade and those cheering along the sidewalk.

“It feels more international as opposed to just Irish,” McCormack said. She stood among a clan of McCormacks cheering on military marching bands and school groups and a band representing a Chinese spiritual practice called “Falun Dafa.”

There were pirates steering a “ship” from the back of a pickup truck, an entourage dressed like Ghostbusters, clowns, performers on stilts, church groups, businesses, politicians, and the group OutVets, who were received with applause.

The antiwar group Veterans for Peace, which has been denied the chance to walk in the parade since 2011, was barred from marching Sunday, however. Parade organizers said the group did not meet the code of conduct required to march; Veterans for Peace organizers said all veterans ought to be honored for their service.

Through the crowd, Irish flags waved, “Sweet Caroline” was sung, friends held others aloft on their shoulders, and one young woman threw up in front of Burger King.

The rowdiness is to be expected, said Rita Little of San Jose, Calif. She was in town with Jane Siebenmorgen to visit cousins in Boston and their family asked if they wanted to check out the parade.

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“And we said ‘yeah,’ ” Siebenmorgen said. “Duh!” replied Little. “Everybody’s into it. I love all the green. It’s a blast.”

The parade was largely peaceful. A Boston police spokesman said Sunday night that there had been one arrest for disorderly conduct and 47 citations for public drinking.

Hundreds participated in the parade, which each year includes marching bands, military vehicles, floats, and performers in all manner of costume.

The parade’s organizer, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, had opposed the shorter route from the Broadway MBTA Station to Farragut Road that Walsh announced, but the group agreed Friday to abide by the city’s decision.

Walsh said the shortened route was necessary to protect the thousands of visitors and parade participants.

Maegen Phelan and her family got their spot right at the front behind the barriers before 11 a.m. so her 8-year-old son, Rowan, could scoop up the candy thrown by parade participants.

It was Phelan’s second year at the parade. The shortened route was the only downside, she said.

“I was bummed,” said Phelan, 33. “I’ve only seen the shortened version.”

She still expected a good day, though. After all, “you never see the Irish block somebody from celebrating,” she said.


Globe correspondent Andrew Grant contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox. Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com.

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