Everyone loves a parade…especially on St. Patrick’s Day
Though we really enjoy traveling in the U.S. and other places around the world, the San Francisco Bay area offers many sites and activities that make it a world class travel destination. We never take that for granted but still often feel we don’t take as big an advantage of this as we can. Yesterday, we decided to do something we had never done – enjoy St. Patrick’s Day festivities in San Francisco. That’s surprising because with my Irish Sweeney heritage St. Patrick’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays.
The San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, hailed as one of the best in the United States and the largest west of the Mississippi, was the main event we attended. It was held yesterday, March 16th, the first time ever (I believe) on a day other than St. Patrick’s Day. This year’s parade, the 162nd, was themed “Honoring the Celtic Woman” and the float above sponsored by the East Bay Fleadh Cheoil (meaning “Festival of Music”) depicts influential & notable Irish women.
On a beautiful, sunny day the parade marched down Market Street ending at the Civic Center and site of the St. Patrick’s Day Festival held in the Civic Center Plaza. The parade is a key event celebrating Irish heritage and culture, very important to San Francisco which has a large Irish American community that has been an important part of San Francisco history for many years. City Hall is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and makes for an impressive backdrop to the parade and festivities in the plaza. The plaza is also the scene for many key celebrations, such as in 2010 and 2012 for the San Francisco Giants’ World Series victories.
At Civic Center Plaza, we enjoyed Irish music, garlic fries and a little Guinness while talking to others in the crowd, everyone seeming to be in “high” spirits.
Meeting San Francisco Fire Department Chief and the parade’s Grand Marshal, Joanne Hayes-White was probably the highlight of the parade for me. Given the parade’s theme, the chief was a good choice for Grand Marshal with her distinguished career in the San Francisco Fire Department and her Irish heritage.
On to the pub
A large part of the celebration in San Francisco happens at the cities many Irish pubs (over 50), some having block parties for St. Patrick’s Day. To properly experience St. Patrick’s Day in San Francisco and to sate our craving for Guinness, we chose the Irish Bank, a popular Irish pub hidden at the end of an alley off Grant Avenue near Union Square and not far from the Civic Center. We arrived just in time to catch the end of the Irish pipers and drummer pictured below.
At mid-afternoon, the pub already had a large and boisterous crowd of revelers, many who seemed to have been there for quite some time. We persistently moved through the crowd to squeeze inside for a pint of Guinness and to show the youngsters how it’s done. Then we stepped outside to enjoy the live band, the Bog Savages, who engaged the crowd with mostly Irish rebel songs.