Thursday, March 14, 2013
St. Patrick’s parade on Greenville Avenue billed as good, green fun
City officials want to clean it up a bit; paradegoers just want to drink green beer.
Irish or not, more than 110,000 people are expected to attend the Dallas St. Patrick’s Parade on March 16.
Experiencing a morning and afternoon at the parade on Greenville Avenue is to feel the pulse of one of Dallas’ biggest events in one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods. With a price tag of $120,000 — $50,000 of which was donated by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban this year — the parade has sprouted from homegrown effort into a big-city bash that’s as traditionally “Dallas” as Texas-OU weekend. Full disclosure, The Dallas Morning News is a sponsor of the parade.
Tens of thousands of pedestrians line the streets of Greenville Avenue the morning of the parade, nearly all decked out in green and toting coolers. Once the parade begins, decorated floats and people on foot bounce down Greenville — bagpipers, dancers, marching bands, city dignitaries and rowdy bar patrons, some tossing Irish-themed knickknacks and hollering at the crowd. When the parade is over, the festivities spill into local bars, restaurants, and nearby M Streets homes, where the Irish revelry usually continues long after sunset.
“I think it’s great to be like Bourbon Street for one day,” says Tom Stephenson, a Dallas resident who started the parade in 1979 with a mere 300 people. Back then, “there were more people in the parade than watching it,” he says. The event grew to about 30,000 in the mid-’80s and has steadily increased in size.
Money raised for the parade, gathered through sponsorships and float entry fees, covers security, cleanup crews and portable toilets. In the future, organizers hope it will raise an additional $250,000 in revenue for the city, says Mauricio Navarro, executive producer and president of RAIZ Public Relations and Special Events.
But to do that, one of the initiatives of the 2013 parade is to clean it up while they green it up. Whereas the parades of the ’80s were a bit thrown together, “some of it bordering on bad taste,” says Stephenson, this year’s parade is supposed to honor the Irish heritage and not green-beer guzzling. The parade is planned by the Greenville Avenue Area Business Association, and president Jorge Levy, owner of Desperados Mexican Restaurant on Greenville Avenue, hopes to make it safer and more family-friendly, at the request of city leaders.
“I’ve talked with people all over the country who come to our St. Patrick’s Day parade and events, and they’re very enthusiastic about it,” says Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, who lives in the M Streets near the parade route. “I’ve been ensuring that while it’s a great time for those who participate, that we ensure that we don’t overburden our neighborhood — that the partygoers are respectful of the surrounding community.”
Addison resident Whitney Ross, 29, thinks the parade doesn’t need to get more kid-friendly. “The Dallas area has enough family-friendly things and not quite as many for the mid-20s, early 30s-aged people that just want to have fun,” she says.
Plano resident Mike Tittle, who has attended the parade for 15 years, agrees: “It’s just one day a year; let it be a little bit obnoxious.”
While tens of thousands of paradegoers consider it a day to overindulge, dozens of businesses along Greenville Avenue call it the most important date of the year. “We cannot survive if we do not have this event,” says Levy.
Tommy Donahue, who also serves on the business association board and is the manager at Milo Butterfingers, says his bar does half a month’s business in that single day. “It’s very vital to all our places if we want to stay around,” Donahue says.
The parade begins at Wellons Drive and runs south on Greenville Avenue until it turns west on SMU Boulevard. Organizers begin planning for it months in advance, and many business owners hire additional, temporary staff just to accommodate the crowds. Expect cheerful, loud fans on the parade route and long lines afterward at Greenville Avenue bars and restaurants.
“I think it’s the greatest day of the year,” says Stephenson.Follow @sblaskovich
PARADE INFO: The parade’s Dash Down Greenville 5K begins at 8 a.m. We recommend parade attendees arrive by 10 a.m. The parade begins at 11 a.m. at Wellons Drive and Greenville Avenue. Bars stay open until 2 a.m.
PARKING: We recommend taking a cab or riding DART. If you must drive, take at least $20 cash to pay for parking in one of the local businesses’ lots. A good corner to walk toward is University Boulevard at Greenville Avenue.
WHAT TO TAKE: An ID; cash to pay bars, cab drivers and parking-lot attendants; and some extra tissues in case the portable toilets run out of TP.
WHAT TO WEAR: You’ll run the risk of getting pinched if you don’t wear green. Wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll probably be standing or walking for quite a while.
BEST BETS: Stake out a spot on Greenville Avenue that’s near a portable toilet — but not too close. You won’t be able to cross Greenville easily during the parade, so plan to stay on one side of the street. Avoid asking businesses to use their restrooms if you are not a paying customer.
ROAD SAFETY: Police will unhook the parade barricades and leave Greenville Avenue closed off to vehicles after the parade. If you plan to visit local businesses after the parade, you can walk north or south on Greenville safely with other pedestrians.
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