Ocean City goes green

Annual festival is cultural celebration of all things Irish

  • St. Patrick's Day Parade in Ocean City. Photo courtesy of Town of Ocean City.
St. Patrick's Day Parade in Ocean City. Photo courtesy… (Baltimore Sun )
March 11, 2011|By Brittany Santarpio, The Baltimore Sun

Saturday, the Irish and Irish at heart will come together and paint Ocean City green at the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival.

The luck of the Irish is in full swing as the shore streets are transformed into a sea of green, complete with live Irish entertainment that includes bagpipers, dancers, marching bands, face painting and an array of food and drink. This year, the Stephen Decatur High School Marching Band will lead several area high schools in the parade as festively decorated floats help ring in Saint Paddy's Day.

The Delmarva Irish-American Club annually sponsored event marks the kick-off for local businesses and the summer season. You can walk the boardwalk, browse in shops, play miniature golf and arcade games or take a stroll on the beach at little to no cost.

Town spokeswoman Donna Abbott believes that the parade helps put the gears in motion for the upcoming tourist season.

"I think this town really comes alive when the festival hits the town," said Abbott. "After a long, cold winter, it starts off the new season."

Ocean City has been home to the parade for 30 years, for more than a few reasons.

"OCMD is all about tourism, and I think that having the parade in a tourist destination only makes it more of an attractive event to visitors," said Abbott.

For some, the festival is more than a cultural event, but time spent with the community.

"Everybody captures their own memory of the event; people are seeing old friends and making new friends and it's just really festive," said Abbott.

Parade program director John O'Brien joined the Irish-American club a few years ago after moving with his family to the Eastern Shore. Out to eat one night, he met members at a neighboring table, and has been involved ever since. For O'Brien, the festival is a family affair.

"I love the parade," O'Brien said. "My wife does face painting, and my younger daughter will be dancing for the first time."

This year dancers will incorporate modern and traditional Irish river dance steps. Choosing Ocean City as the parade's venue was a no-brainer for Delmarva.

"It's really fun. If you end up at 45th Street, we have a great band that plays; also, everybody has been cooped up all winter, and it's the first event everybody can get involved in," said O'Brien.

Visitors will gather at noon on 61st Street as the parade marches south on Coastal Highway to the 45th Street Shopping Center, where judges will dish out scores for best marching band, best commercial float, best noncommercial float, best motorized unit, best adult and youth marching units, special committee award and best overall entry in the parade.

The event also has a philanthropic side: All funds raised from the festival go toward charities such as to the city's recreation and parks department and homeless shelters. A large amount also goes to graduating Stephen Decatur seniors. In the past, the club has raised more than $30,000.

Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, Ocean City's Saint Patrick's Parade and Festival is the 2nd largest St. Paddy's Day Parade in the state.

"It certainly has built up from a small affair to drawing more parade participants and it keeps building on past experience," Abbott said.

This year more than 100 organizations are involved in the festivities.

"The businesses love it and it's a fun place to be for everybody," said O'Brien.

This year's festival will be sure to keep Irish eyes smiling.

If you go

The Ocean City St. Patrick's Day Irish Parade and Festival will be held on Saturday. Hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; the parade is at noon. Free. Call 410- 289-6156 or go to delmarvairish.org. For travel information, go to ococean.com.

Hotels

Howard Johnson Oceanfront Plaza on 12th Street has a "Cabin Fever Special" with rooms starting at $49 a night.

The Grand Hotel on 22nd Street and the Ocean City Boardwalk has rooms starting at a $79. Try the Weekend Escape Package for $108.14 per night. This package includes two nights' hotel accommodations and a $60 dinner voucher valid at local restaurants such as Galaxy 66, Ember's or BJ's On the Water.

The Princess Royale on 91st street has two-room suites available starting at $89 a night, making this Ocean City hotel perfect for a romantic or family getaway. The hotel has an indoor heated pool and a tropical atrium.

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