San Francisco has its faults – many of them in fact. The sky-high living expenses, lack of good public transportation, and rising eviction rates make living anywhere in the Bay Area a tricky, anxiety-inducing endeavor. Sometimes it is really hard to remember that it has its perks too – and one of those is the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
San Francisco has a long history with Ireland and has been a destination for many Irish people over the years. We have a very large Irish population that has been pushed toward the outskirts of town but their grip on the city has not wavered. The United Irish Cultural Center is huge and always full, and the Irish bars throughout the city may have become a little less political over the last fifteen years or so, but their popularity hasn’t dwindled. Neither has the St. Paddy’s Day parade. In fact, it continues to grow.
This may be because organizers chose the weekend before St. Patrick’s day to march this year. They probably realized that many participants and observers would not be perky enough to parade on the day after St. Paddy’s celebrations. It was a wise move, because the parade went on and on, under a beautiful sunny sky.
There were a ton of musicians, dancers, and Irish cultural groups marching proudly to the up the road like they have for over a hundred years. The floats ranged from old cars and firetrucks to cable cars and dance parties – and there was a lot of both the sacred and the profane in the parade. People dressed like St. Patrick threw rosaries into the crowd and prayed while marching behind political banners, baton twirlers, and nearly half of the city’s firefighters. There was a little something for everyone.
The parade was last Saturday, which means the bay will go green twice this year (figuratively of course). That’s plenty of opportunity for trouble and while I usually avoid St. Paddy’s Day parties, this year I’ve drunk the green kool-aid. I have to because last year I was in Ireland and my memories of that epic month are still haunting me. I need some Irish music and some community time a little more than usual and if I have to settle for the consolation prizes that San Francisco has to offer, at least they’re pretty amazing. If you’re local, you will find me singing along at the Irish Bank on Friday afternoon and if you’re not, I do hope you’ll join me in raising a glass (adult beverage or no) to tolerance, music, and Ireland no matter where you are in the world, since the Irish are surely there too. Sláinte.