St. Patrick’s Day — which falls on March 17 every year — is on Saturday this time. That means, downtown Augusta that day is going to be the pot of gold for good times.
The day will kick off with the Irish-American Heritage Society’s parade, which has been going strong since 1978. This is the 41st parade, and with it being on a Saturday, parade Chairman Jimbo Thrash, 34, was still receiving requests for entries as of March 8. Thrash grew up going to the parade, as his parents were both a part of the Society and involved in it.
“This’ll probably be one of the biggest parades we’ve had since it’s on a Saturday,” he said. “In the parade, you’ll have the different bands from all the schools that’ll be there; there’s like an old-timey fire truck that’ll be there that plays Irish music. There’ll be Irish dancers during the parade. Bag-pipers. It’s just gonna be awesome.”
Last year, as the parade hit its 40th incarnation, Jimbo’s mother Ree Thrash wrote a piece to commemorate its inception.
“In January and February, 1978, the Irish community was abuzz with talk of a parade and festivities for St. Patrick’s Day. Excitement was in the air, plans were being made, and the Irish were marching,” Ree Thrash wrote. “On March 17, 1978, Irish men, women and children attended mass at Most Holy Trinity Church. As Grand Marshal, Jamie O’Connell was walking into mass, he pulled John Scherer aside, gave him a list of parade participants and told him to line everyone up for the parade. John became the Society’s first parade chairman. John assembled the units (two bands, two floats, marchers, Grand Marshal, Mayor Pop O’Newman driven by a young Leland Malchow, 15 units in all) and we proceeded from Barrett Plaza down Broad Street and terminated at 7th Street at the Town Tavern.”
After the success of the first year, the parade (and crowds) grew with more entrants. Now, thousands of people line up for the festivities; the route starts at the James Brown Arena parking lot, goes down Seventh Street to Telfair, turns left on Telfair toward Eleventh Street, takes a right and heads to Broad Street, then turns right on Broad Street and goes all the way down to Sixth Street. In all, Jimbo Thrash said, the parade is expected to take about two hours.
He noted that it’s been several years since the parade fell on a Saturday. According to timeanddate.com, the last time St. Patrick’s Day was on a Saturday was in 2012, and the next time it will fall on a Saturday isn’t for another 11 years, in 2029.
Notable people in the parade this year include Grand Marshal Ed Holmes, Lady of the Year Maureen Grady Lewis and Family of the Year the Ray Brady Family.
Jimbo Thrash, who remembers riding in the parade when he was just 4 years old in his Power Wheels Jeep, says it’s the decades-long tradition and the fun gathering that keeps people coming downtown on the holiday.
“As for me now, I love when I’m driving down when the parade starts at 2 p.m., I’m in a golf cart and I go straight to Broad Street,” he said. “I just check for crowd control and I just see all those people lined up waiting for our parade. It’s a good feeling. All the kids are excited and stuff — I love it.”
AFTER THE PARADE
For the second year, Friends With Benefits (along with the city of Augusta) has organized free live entertainment on the Augusta Common to keep people downtown. After the parade ends, spectators will want to head to the Common for Irish dancers at 4 p.m., Irish-Catholic local musician Eryn Eubanks at 5, Taylor and the Swans (a new side project band put together by local musician Taylor Swan) at 6:30, the Scarlet Begonias (Grateful Dead tribute) at 7:45 and Black Dawg (Led Zeppelin tribute) at 9:30. Along with the live music, there will be a kid’s fun zone, along with food and beverage vendors.
Friends With Benefits founder George Claussen IV is all about keeping the family-friendly party vibe going well into the night.
“I love it — it’s such a great time for Augusta,” Claussen said. “You really get to see Augusta at its finest on St. Patrick’s Day, when everybody’s downtown for the parade, 10,000 people down there. It’s just a good kind of melting pot for everyone; it’s a happy day for everyone and everybody has a good time. The Irish-American Heritage Society has done such a great job over many years of putting the parade together, and it continues to get better and better.
“So (Friends With Benefits) kind of came on last year to really kind of help do something for when the parade ends. Because after it ends, everyone kind of disperses. Some people go back to the Hill, some people go back to Aiken or wherever they live. So we kind of start up right when the parade ends, and it kind of keeps people downtown. Last year was very successful, and it’s a lot of fun. … So you get to see everybody not leave immediately after the parade and go home. It keeps them downtown and just keeps the camaraderie going throughout the night.”
DOWNTOWN ST. PATRICK’S DAY CELEBRATION
2 p.m. Parade
4 to 4:45 p.m. Irish Dancers
5 to 6 p.m. Eryn Eubanks
6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Taylor and the Swans
7:45 to 9 p.m. Scarlet Begonias
9:30 to 10:45 p.m. Black Dawg
The festivities downtown are not the only St. Patrick’s Day happenings this week. Turn the page to find out more, and see the music listings in this issue to see what local venues are up to for the day of green.