Green Light for St. Patrick's Day Parades

From Associated Press

St. Patrick's Day parade spectators, lined up 10 deep along Fifth Avenue and participating in marches around the country, put war worries aside Monday to revel in upbeat festivities.

The New York parade, the nation's largest and a tradition since 1766, drew an estimated 2 million spectators. Large parades honoring Ireland's patron saint also were held in Savannah, Ga., whose event is billed as the nation's second-largest march, as well as in Kansas City, Mo., and Cleveland.

"I'm representing Ireland and New York today. It's a day for happiness and to be together," said Long Island resident Greg Packer, who sported a bright green wig and a painted green mustache at New York's parade. "It's a day to take in the Irish culture that we have in the city."

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was among several officials who marched up Fifth Avenue, including Gov. George E. Pataki and former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Temperatures were in the upper 60s, and there were few signs of a possible war with Iraq among the sea of green hats, shirts and balloons.

In Savannah, hundreds of military wives wearing yellow ribbons with their green hats and beads marched in pouring rain to rally support for their soldier husbands.

"We don't usually get to step out and say our piece," said Kara Collins, whose husband, Capt. Stephen Collins, left with his infantry support battalion for Kuwait in January.

"This is going to show we love our soldiers and respect our soldiers."

Locals who braved the rain credited the city's Irish roots -- thousands settled in Savannah in the pre-Civil War 1800s -- for keeping the party rolling.

Cleveland's parade brought out thousands of spectators and little hint of the heated politics surrounding the possibility of war.

John Price said news of possible war "kind of puts a damper on it," but added: "It's a day to forget about all that."

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