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It’s St Patrick’s Day

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

It’s St Patrick’s Day

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Thousands of revelers decked out in gaudy green hats and beads, blazers and dresses crammed the cobblestone streets and oak-shaded squares today for the St Patrick’s Day  parade in Georgia’s oldest city, which has been celebrating Irish heritage with a Southern accent for 188 years.
Veteran parade watchers started staking out spots before dawn for their folding chairs, which were piled up three-deep on the sidewalks by the time the parade kicked off at 10:15 a.m. Lines of thirsty patrons were already spilling out the door of downtown bars before the pre-parade Mass wrapped up at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Started in 1824 by settlers who immigrated to the Georgia coast, St Patrick’s Day has grown from a local procession with religious roots to a sprawling street party that’s Savannah’s biggest tourist draw of the year.
Tourism officials and local merchants were expecting the 2012 celebration to be one of the city’s busiest, thanks to the March 17 holiday falling on Saturday and the postcard perfect weather — a sunny 76 degrees in the morning that was forecast to rise into the 80s.
Every hotel in the city and surrounding Chatham County was booked solid and parade organizers estimated more than 15,000 people were marching in the procession of bands and bagpipers, police officers and Army soldiers as well as shamrock-decorated convertibles chauffeuring local dignitaries.