HOLMES BEACH – 14 years ago, Sean Murphy loaded up his kids and their neighborhood friends into an old green lawn trailer, armed with a permit and a boombox. They paraded down the middle of Gulf Drive, to the amusement of somewhat perplexed onlookers. What began as a lark, has grown into an annual tradition including floats, beads, thousands of onlookers and even an elephant and camel!
Today, the local restauranteur jokingly claims, “The parade is now the largest St. Paddy’s Day Parade South and East of Savannah. It may also be the only St. Paddy’s Day Parade South and East of Savannah.”
On Sunday, March 17, the Beach Bistro will again proudly host its 14th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Anna Maria Island. The parade is scheduled to start at 4 p.m., beginning at Holmes Beach City Hall (5801 Marina Drive in Holmes Beach), and ending on North Palm Drive and 78th Street. Parade participants should assemble at 2 p.m. at City Hall.
In addition to the support of the Murphy family, Beach Bistro and Eat Here, this year’s parade will benefit from sponsorship by Darcie Duncan Real Estate, the Pittsburgh Pirates, The Islander newspaper, Frank and Melissa Williams of SteamDesigns, Shawn Kaleta and his family and a local parade enthusiast who wishes to remain anonymous.
The Anna Maria Community Center will be sponsoring a Sham Rockin’ Festival in the field adjacent to city hall with booths offering food and crafts from 11 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day.
The parade is free and open to the public, and Anna Maria Island residents (Irish or otherwise) are invited to participate. The slow-strolling parade attracts upwards of fifteen-thousand celebrants each year and features area marching bands, pipe bands, musicians and colorful floats as well as charming wee folk dressed as leprechauns. Parade Marshalls will be World War Two veterans Mr. Sam Castelli and Mr. Jim Gabaree.
As ever, this year’s favorite participant is Judy the Parade Elephant led by her companion of over forty years, Mr. Bones. Her sometimes co-star is Omar the camel. Omar’s appearance is, as ever, a little iffy, owed to the notorious moodiness of the camel species. Get on your green and get on out to the island this Sunday.
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