March 19, 2024

St. Patrick's Day in Savannah

Every year in the month of March, the charming and beautiful city of Savannah becomes a sea of green. The city’s fountains, located in its signature squares, all spurt out recently dyed green water. Almost every person in the city can be seen wearing green, with an occasional splash of white or orange. Its historical streets are host to a huge parade spanning all of downtown that boasts green colored marching bands, green floats, and even green entertainers. The event that turns this Southern town green and hosts nearly 300,000 people is St. Patrick’s Day, and it truly is a once in a lifetime experience. 

The holiday’s popularity in Savannah can be traced back to the city's earliest days as a colony and its deep roots with the Irish people. Seeing Georgia as a great opportunity for a new life, many Irish settlers migrated to the colony to pursue religious freedom and obtain land. Irish immigrants continued to make up most of Georgia’s population for decades, and were essential in the construction of Georgia’s early infrastructure, such as railroads. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah occurred in 1824, when the Hibernian Society, an Irish organization that helped poor Irish immigrants, held a parade for the people of Savannah to hear a speech from Bishop John England, the founder of the diocese of Charleston. As the city and its population grew, the parade evolved more and more each year, eventually becoming the famous event known worldwide today. 

While the parade has always been massive (the city’s mayor, Van R. Johnson, refers to the celebration as Savannah’s “superbowl”), all signs point to this year’s celebration hitting record numbers of turnout and activity. Almost 99% of all hotels in Savannah are occupied for the celebration, and the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is reporting record high arrivals throughout the week leading up to the event. There are many reasons for this. In addition to the parade occurring on a Saturday, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the celebration in Savannah, warranting visitors from all over the world to culminate in the city and celebrate the milestone. 

While St. Patrick’s Day is one of Savannah’s most important celebrations, the holiday is also known to cause problems for the city. One problem in particular is the amount of litter produced from the parade and its hundreds of thousands of visitors. The city wide congestion makes it impossible for the city’s waste and recycling containers to be regularly maintained, and the density of people makes it very easy to dump trash on the streets without being caught. Littering presents a big challenge for Savannah. When in high amounts, litter can increase flooding risk by clogging essential stormwater outlets, disturb soil and plant life in the city’s squares and parks, and break down into smaller, persistent pollutants that threaten wildlife on land and in the Savannah River. 

Savannah is taking a variety of actions to combat littering on St. Patrick’s Day. Workers are deployed throughout the city to maintain trash receptacles and prevent overflows, and anyone caught littering will be faced with a $50 fine or a court appearance. Officials are strongly encouraging parade goers to “pack it in and pack it out”, or store and carry your trash with you to prevent receptacle overflows and accidental littering. Among everything else, city officials are also stressing the seriousness of what happens to trash after the parade. After the festivities conclude, city officials spend countless hours cleaning up trash off the streets and squares, putting even more responsibility and burden on the workers who made the event possible in the first place. This year, the city’s sanitation workers collected almost 300 tons of trash, or approximately the weight of 300 cars. 

For the first time in parade history, the city has unveiled a revolutionary change that will reduce waste and littering: a To-Go cup made from recycled aluminum. The cups are meant to be used in zones where alcohol can be carried freely during the holiday and the purpose is to reduce the amount of waste accumulated during festivities. 

While the parade, its massive scale, and its large turnout create some challenges for the city, St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah is a celebration of the city’s important Irish heritage and a demonstration of love by its local communities and people. To learn more about municipalities and companies making a sustainable impact visit