Traditionally, March 17 celebrated Saint Patrick–the patron saint of Ireland who worked to convert the Irish to Christianity–on the day of his death. The day, and the weekend closest to it, was later Americanized by U.S. citizens of Irish descent and transformed into the parade-watching, green-clad, shamrock-decorated celebration we know today.
With this current version of St. Patrick’s Day in mind, HomeInsurance.com analysts took a look at midsize U.S. cities with high percentages of Irish descendants to join in their St. Patrick’s Day parades. Here are our findings:
1. Butte-Silver Bow, Montana
Butte-Silver Bow has a population of more than 34,460 residents, 29 percent of whom are of Irish descent. The area has held St. Patrick’s Day parades since 1882, and about 30,000 come out to watch. Residents flock to the Irish Times Pub afterward to relax among the Dublin church pews and County Clare stone plucked directly from the homeland. And if they feel up to it, residents can partake in a Blarney Stone Fun Run the morning following the parade.
2. Ocean City, New Jersey
Ocean City’s St. Paddy’s Day parade began in 1981. The city has a population of more than 96,280, of which 26,824 reported having Irish ancestry. Self-described as the “greenest St. Patrick’s Day parade at the Jersey Shore,” this celebration features marching bands and bagpipers playing traditional Irish tunes. Outside the parade, residents of Ocean City can head to P.J. Sweeny’s to hear live Irish music throughout the month of March. Also, just two days prior to the 2016 parade, The Strand Center for the Arts will host a performance titled “Galway to Graceland,” an interactive show sure to get attendees of all ages singing and dancing in the aisles to McLean Ave Band and Emerald Fire.
3. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
Barnstable Town’s population exceeds 215,160, with 27 percent identifying as Irish. Barnstable Town’s St. Paddy’s Day parade has been around since 1762, making it the longest running parade of any of the cities on our list by a landslide. Barnstable Town is located on Cape Cod, and its St. Patrick’s Day parade stretches for two miles, occurring despite rain, sun or snow.
4. Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire
Twenty-one percent of Manchester-Nashua’s more than 402,770 residents claim Irish ancestry. To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the cities began conducting a parade in 1996. Volunteers help paint big shamrocks along the mile-long parade route to enhance the festive mood for a crowd of more than 70,000 attendees the Sunday following St. Patrick’s Day. The celebrations often begin a few weeks before the parade with mass at St. Raphael Parish for the “passing of the sash” from the previous to the current year’s grand marshals, and end with the popular St. Patrick’s Day dinner at the church, featuring traditional Irish staples such as corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots and turnips.
5. Norwich-New London, Connecticut
Norwich-New London’s St. Patrick’s Day parade began in 2014, making it one of the newest parades on our list. The area has a population of more than 274,070, with 18 percent reporting Irish descent. Thirty-nine different groups will march in the 2016 Norwich-New London event, with a post-parade street festival featuring food from local vendors and live music.
6. Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont
Of the cities’ combined population of more than 213,890 residents, 38,990 men and women have Irish ancestors. The cities began hosting a St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1996. Burlington-South Burlington’s Irish celebration is more than just a parade, though. The Burlington Irish Heritage Festival takes place in early March and offers many events, from dancing and singing to traditional Irish music and a workshop that helps residents trace their genealogy to find their Irish roots.
7. Hot Springs, Arkansas
About 18 percent of Hot Springs’ more than 9,800 residents have ties to Ireland. In 2003, the city had its first St. Patrick’s Day parade. The Hot Springs parade is the shortest St. Paddy’s Day parade in history, as it takes place on Bridge Street, a 98-foot stretch of road. Even still, the parade draws a crowd of more than 30,000 annually, and is led by celebrity grand marshals. The 2016 leaders? Kevin and Michael Bacon and Gary Busey.
8. Atlantic City-Hammonton, New Jersey
Atlantic City-Hammonton’s St. Patrick’s Day parade got its start in 1986. The cities have a population of more than 275,320, with 17 percent identifying as Irish. The 31st Atlantic City-Hammonton parade will take place on the Boardwalk and feature the Pipes & Drums of Barnegat Bay to add authentic Irish tunes to the march.
9. East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
East Stroudsburg’s population exceeds 168,340, and 17 percent is of Irish descent. East Stroudsburg’s St. Patrick’s Day parade first marched through the city’s streets in 1978. The parade spans a route slightly less than two miles and is hosted by the Pocono Irish American Club, which was formed to preserve and promote the culture of the Irish.
10. Utica-Rome, New York
About 51,110 of Utica-Rome’s 298,273 residents are Irish. The cities’ combined St. Patrick’s Day parade began in 1978. More than 2,000 men, women and children from New York, surrounding states and Canada congregate to march in the Utica-Rome parade to celebrate their Irish heritage. A canned food drive to help local residents in need accompanies the event.
11. Erie, Pennsylvania
About 17 percent of Erie’s 280,132 citizens are of Irish ancestry. To celebrate the city’s Irish roots, its St. Patrick’s Day parade became an annual tradition in 1978. Participants don green and march through downtown Erie alongside Irish dancers and intricate floats. Their four-legged companions get the St. Paddy’s Day treatment, too, with fur dyed green.
12. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Cedar Rapids has a population of more than 261,420, of whom 16 percent are Irish. The city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade got its start in 1976. Because the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Society gives awards for a range of categories, including best Irish theme and best costumes, participants take the event seriously and go a little crazy with their attire. Some dress as the Grinch—face paint included—and Cindy Lou Who, while others custom-make outfits including hats piled high with green feathers and orange trim. The parade draws an audience of more than 50,000 people.
13. Missoula, Montana
Missoula’s population exceeds 111,010. Of those, 16 percent identify as being of Irish ancestry. In 1981, the city’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade marched through the streets. In Missoula, March is about far more than just a parade to celebrate Irish culture. In 2016, the city hosts a concert featuring Irish singer Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhride, a lecture on Ireland and America, a special St. Patrick’s Day mass and an Irish hurling game, in addition to the parade.
14. Davenport, Iowa and Moline-Rock Island, Illinois
Davenport has a population of more than 381,913, with 55,543 claiming Irish ancestry. The Quad Cities—five cities located in four counties of northwest Illinois and southeast Iowa, and including Davenport, Rock Island and Moline—began their St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1985. Before the parade, the Saint Patrick Society of the Quad Cities hosts a “Gathering of the Clan Luncheon,” which recognizes the Irish Mother of the Year—a local mother who demonstrates pride in her Irish roots, and is heavily involved in family and community—introduces the Grand Marshal of the Grand Parade and awards a college scholarship. The parade stretches across state lines, beginning in Rock Island and ending in Davenport, and draws participants and onlookers from throughout the Quad Cities region.
15. Roseburg, Oregon
The final city on our list of midsize cities with the most Irish St. Patrick’s Day parades is Roseburg. About 15 percent of the city’s 107,156 residents are Irish. Roseburg’s parade is one of the newest of all 15 cities, as it originated in 2014. Roseburg’s St. Paddy’s Day parade has a different theme each year, and this year’s is “Go Green.” In 2016 the parade will take place on March 12, which has been designated “Youth with Disabilities Awareness Day” by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, so parade goers will support those of Irish descent and disability awareness alike.
No matter what your plans are this St. Patrick’s Day, make sure you have a designated driver (DD) if you plan to have a drink.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32 percent of traffic fatalities occurring on St. Patrick’s Day in 2010 were linked to driving under the influence. So if you don’t have a DD, have a local cab company’s number saved in your phone, or ride sharing apps such as Uber or Lyft downloaded to help get you home safely. It’s never okay to drive with any alcohol in your system; you’re putting yourself, your passengers and other motorists in danger.
However you choose to celebrate your Irish–or Irish-for-the-day–heritage, have a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day.
HomeInsurance.com ranked midsized U.S. cities with populations between 30,000 and 500,000 by their percentage of Irish descendants using data from Social Explorer/US Census. All cities have at least 10,000 residents who claim to be of Irish descent. Cities were only included if they had an annual event with a website or web presence.