St Patrick's Day Parade, Newport, Rhode Island
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What time of year can you start drinking at 9am and have it be socially acceptable? That would of course be the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade held here in Newport. This is one event you cannot miss. Not only is the parade itself very entertaining, but what follows is always a blast. Every bar in town is packed, and practically everyone you know in Newport is throwing a wide-open party. In Newport, St. Patrick's Day is bigger then Christmas!
Last year was my first St. Patty's Day Parade in Newport and I really thought that it couldn't possibly live up to all the hype. I mean really, how much fun can watching a parade possibly be? Take it from me and believe the hype! Not only is it a sign that the dreadful winter is coming to an end, but the debauchery that ensues is incredible. Not to mention the fact that it's the one day out of the year you won't mind being farty and bloated from too much corned beef and cabbage. I can't wait for round two!
I think I've been counting down the days to the St Patrick's Day Parade since the end of the parade last year. This event is fabulous; it's probably on par with Mardi Gras in New Orleans (well...maybe not that crazy). The parade lasts about 3 hours which is just enough time to get smashed and walk up and down Thames Street with liquor hiding in your coffee mug screaming 'hooray' to all the cops marching in the parade. Once the parade is over, good luck getting into the bars?they?ve been booked since sunrise!
The St. Patrick's Day Parade in Newport is perhaps one of the best experiences this town has to offer. From the moment you wake up it's a party! I like to start the day off right with a shot of Jameson in my coffee, followed by a flask of my favorite booze as I head off to watch the parade. I love the fact that it's the only day of the year where every bar gets packed by 9am and the police generally overlook behavior that usually puts people in jail.
This year will be my ninth St. Patrick's Day in Newport, and my second with the good folks from newportscoop.com. It is a very special day for a number of reasons. Some are obvious: drink from morning til night, and eat damned tasty corned beef and cabbage. But there are additional subtleties that make it quite possibly the best day of the year (for adults).
Other than a natural calamity, there seems to be no other event in modern times that draws people out of their cars and houses, and into the streets and local gathering places. Used to be that fun events like barn-raisings and public executions would bring people together, but no more. Now all we have is St. Patrick's Day.
Let us start with the fact that St. Patrick's Day doesn't really celebrate anything. It doesn't involve sanctimonious behavior, church attendance, gifts, visits to relatives, nice attire, or basic motor skills. It simply requires you to travel a few yards, or miles as the case may be, to a street corner bordering Thames or Broadway. Once there, you join your fellow parade brethren, and begin dipping into your "jolly juice".
So we have brought the people together, and applied the necessary lubricant (i.e., alcohol) to turn the coagulated masses of humanity into a smooth, viscous flow of merriment. What are these subtleties of St. Patrick's Day of which I speak? For one, you have the breaking down of the normal barriers between the male would-be-hunter, and the female would-be-hunted. It is a day when loud and sloppy approaches do not result in a decisive swing-and-a-miss, but rather a slow dribbler down the third base line that you just might beat out! Of course, it helps that the third base-woman is drunkenly rooted in place. Regardless, it is a day when the most timid of men have a chance to speak, and the most desirable of women have their shields down. Way down.
The other great thing about St. Patrick's Day is that it helps stiffen the spines of our otherwise too-coddled youth! From those marching, to those on the sidewalks, it is a rare view into the scary, real world that adults inhabit. I have never seen such looks of fear and loathing as those I have seen from mechanically-waving third-graders being slowly driven on a flat-bed truck through a parted sea of howling lunatics. Nor does Miss Rhode Island get off easy -- she too suffers as she is bombarded with countless cries of "Poise counts!" I am not sure when they took the high school cheerleaders and majorettes out of the parade, but it was a wise decision.
And then you have the parade itself. There are the floats. They're so bad, they're good. "You have a truck towing an old wooden boat? Great! You're in the parade." Other parades -- at other times and in other places -- are so filled with high-tech floats that they dominate the parade. Not so in Newport. In fact, in keeping with the main theme of this essay, the foci of the Newport St. Patrick's Day parade are, as a matter of necessity, the people. From the marching bands (none too perfect) to the unicyclists-cum-chimney-sweeps, and from lights-flashing police cars to fake-smiling politicians, people are the essence of the parade.
Indeed, it is a day when people who normally live in the shadows burst forth in all their glory! When do you respect a man in a pancake outfit? Almost never; except on St. Patrick's Day! What about Revolutionary War re-enactors? Other than the occasional gig at a Patriots game, these people have no outlet for their talents; except on St. Patrick's Day! And the list goes on and on: dance teachers with their students, bag-pipers (my personal favorite), seamen first-class (don't giggle), off-duty policemen (by the way, if you're a thief, St. Patrick's Day should be your busiest work day of the year), and the list goes on. Normally shunned, but on St. Patrick's Day, heroes one and all!
And so we come close to the end of our journey together. We come to me and you: the parade viewer. Just as great force requires resistance to be effective, so too does a parade require great attendees to be special. So let us be great! Get there early and leave late. If you're a man, be bold. And if you're a woman, be receptive. Scare the children, applaud the marchers, aim unloaded rifles at the heads of politicians (is that just me?), and, most importantly, commune with your fellow parade-goer. And let's all make St. Patrick's Day the best day of the year.