300,000 Drunken Southerners in the Dark: Does Savannah Have the Best St. Patricks Day in the World?

My Spring Break was last week. After skipping around the southeast for a little while visiting family, I began what will likely be the most heroic undertaking of my life. I set myself upon a quest for truth, a journey into the seedy underworld where Catholicism, public intoxication, mutated plant life, centuries of oppression, green plastic derby hats, slavery, Flogging Molly, and bare boobies blend with gallons of Guinness to create the heady spectacle we know as St. Patrick’s Day.

As I’ve stated before, a propensity towards all things celtic was probably hardwired into my DNA and reinforced with a Catholic school education administered by a gaggle of Irish nuns. Some of my earliest memories are of The Sisters Joan (Grace and Cahill, respectively) leading the entire school in the ballad of Molly Mallone. I like a good party, and even the prevalence of swarms of green beer drinking amateurs doesn’t spoil my good time on that most glorious day. Last year I spent it here in San Francisco, a first. I had a good time but the city’s celebration was underwhelming.

A few friends and I got into the discussion of where to find the best St. Patrick’s day party in the country. Based on experience, we quickly discarded Orlando and San Francisco. One faction (consisting of myself and O-lover), based only on pure supposition and Dropkick Murphys lyrics, decided it had to be in Boston. The dissenting opinion (from my friend The Chef), based on the coloration of the river on March 17th, decided it had to be Chicago. Also considered were New York, and Savannah. At every opportunity, we ask someone from one of these cities how their St. Patrick’s day measures up to the others. We got conflicting and biased reports every time, and no clear winner emerged so we took it upon ourselves to do some field research.

Thus began our highly scientific Five Year Quest for the Greatest Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration in the World.

Year 1: Savannah

Year 2: New York

Year 3: Chicago

Year 4: Boston

Year 5: Dublin

At the end of our travels, we will compile the data and finally solve the puzzle that has plagued mankind since the invention of the shamrock-shaped novelty glasses: where is the best St. Patrick’s Day party.

This year, we headed for the Hostess City, of the South, Savannah, Ga. I was not aware of just how seriously this city takes St. Patrick’s Day, but they do not mess around. Unfortunately Holy Week threw things out of whack and I ended up missing the parade on Friday. But I was there for the continuing celebration that took up the rest of the weekend. We got there early and started drinking a little early in the day. This would prove to be a mistake that haunt me later, as I wandered around in a drunken haze nearly killing myself on the uneven cobblestones of River street. But it did put me in a festive frame of mind.

The crowds were slightly smaller than I expected, and no water supplies were died green but the foot traffic flowed swiftly and I was able to secure a perch on the Hyatt deck from which to observe the street below.  As the day wore on, we changed location a number of times and it didn’t really get too crowded to move until well after dark. There were some beads being thrown around, but the level of revelry was far below Mardis Gras thresholds.  There were surprising few fights on the waterfront.

The real fun came later in the evening when nearby tornadoes knocked out power and the entire area plunged into darkness. I was well ensconced in a local watering hole by then and they lit candles to let the carousing continue. No credit cards, and nothing from the soda guns, but the shots kept coming. (That would also prove to be a mistake).

As things were winding down, we found ourselves wandering the darkened streets of the downtown area until we eventually stumbled upon an oasis of power, with an outdoor street concert. Things wound back up again, but our steps were unsteady and our gazes were beginning to rove. In truth, I was probably a little more affected than my companions. At the end of the night, we had to take the “shuttle” back to our digs and the operators gouged the prices horribly. That is where things went off the rails a bit.

It seems that without power, the hotel was unable to imprint the keycards that would let us in to our room. I took this in stride.


Desk Clerk: I can’t let you in. The machine isn’t working. I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.


Desk Clerk: I understand, but there’s nothing I can do.

Me: (pulling reservation confirmation from back pocket) IT’S RIGHT HERE!!!

Desk Clerk: I understand, sir, but the machine needs power to function. We just have to wait. I’m sorry.

Me: I HAVE TO PEE!!!! (leaves lobby, presumably to pee)

Fortunately, while I recovered my friends were able to talk her into letting us into the room with the Maid’s Key, though it turns out we weren’t exactly staying at the Ritz (or any other hotel that doesn’t come equipped with standing water and huge patches of black mold)and might have been better off sleeping in the lobby.

It was a good first start to the quest, since although I had fun and the atmosphere was festive, I’m sure bigger and better things are waiting for next year’s leg. Chicago, here I come (in 361 days).

3 Comments on "300,000 Drunken Southerners in the Dark: Does Savannah Have the Best St. Patricks Day in the World?"

  • list #2 N.Y.? Chicago ,next ? I am confused. – I was born and grew up in N.Y. BEST all over-. Been with relatives in ILL. N.Y. wins totally!

  • I have done St. Pat’s in all of your chosen cities, and though Savannah makes a spectacle of itself, I insist on being your guide in Boston. (I still have scars, both physical and psychological.) Remember what Sullivan said in The Departed? “I’m Irish. I can deal with something being wrong for the rest of my life.”

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