Liz McCully looks forward to Baltimore’s St. Patrick’s Day parade each year when she’s able to attend with a celebrity.
Finbarr, her massive Colonial Newfoundland, typically steals the show. Dressed in a green hat, oversized green bow-tie collar and wearing a Saint Patrick’s themed table runner for a shawl, the 150-pound with billowing black fur regularly turns heads and attracts a ton of attention.
“He just loves people so much,” said the 53-year-old Fallston resident, who marched in the parade with other members of the Colonial Newfoundland Rescue group. “When people don’t come over to them, he thinks something is wrong.”
She added: “It’s a day when strangers come and talk. I’m usually afraid to come into the city. But he [dog] makes that connection.”
McCully was one of an estimated 40,000 attendees at the annual parade, according to organizers. The day also featured a 5K race and a Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption.
“It’s a pretty happy event,” said Sean Hackett, general chairman of the parade.
Hackett said preparations for the parade begin in September.
“Into June we’re finishing up and still getting bills paid,” he explained, adding that 16 bands, 14 local Irish organizations and a number of additional groups made up the participants this year.
“It’s good to watch,” Hackett said.
And watch they did. Parade-goers, who lined both sides of Charles Street. from the start at the Washington Monument to the east on Pratt Street and eventually at Market Place, created a green wave and contributed to the sensory overload that was the parade.
A slew of floats, bands — and the sounds associated with them — filled the usually calm section of Mount Vernon.
The rhythmic pounding from a high school drum line drowned out the melodic notes of bagpipes.
“It’s getting close,” a woman gushed to a group of children she was leading down the street.
Ryan O’Neil, a Philadelphia resident who has attended the parade in Baltimore for the past 10 years, sells pretzels. He said he typically sells about 150 through the course of the day.
“I like to be a part of the good atmosphere,” he said, as he pushed a grocery cart filled with golden brown salted soft pretzels, which he sold for two dollars apiece.
Gordon Schmitz and his girlfriend, Clarissa Price, loved watching Price’s grandson play in the Calvert Hall band.
“That’s my grandbaby,” she gushed. “I feel good about it. He’s a good kid.”
Schmitz liked the sense of community the parade fosters.
“I like the unity of different elements — both in the city and the surrounding areas,” the Roland Park resident said. “There are no problems and plenty of color and music. And I like to watch her grandson play. He’s a marvelous kid.”
The Rev. Martin Burnham, 52, said he’s been attending the parade since he was old enough to walk.
“Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a huge family reunion,” said Burnham, who is the chaplain for the Ancient Order Of Hibernians, a nonprofit Irish Catholic fraternal organization. “I get to see family and friends from across the Irish community.”