In cities across the United States, the "Wearing o' the Green" is also a time for the spending o' the green. And that has tourism promoters singing hymns of praise to St. Patrick.
"Americans' ardor for everything Irish means that many cities — especially those that aren't the typical collegiate spring break hot spots — have found a unique opportunity to attract visitors with festive St. Patrick's Day celebrations and bargain-priced lodging throughout the month of March," says Chris DeSessa, a professor of travel tourism management at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.
"Take Newport, R.I., for example. St. Patrick's Day falls right smack in the middle of the value season. Add to that Newport's rich Irish heritage and a schedule of down-home Irish celebrations that are as much fun for visitors as they are for locals, and you have a natural tourism draw."
Evan Smith, vice president of tourism marketing for the Newport County Convention & Visitors Bureau, says that Newport's significant Irish community is proud of its heritage and enjoys sharing it with visitors.
"The Irish, who were the great stone masons of the age, arrived in Newport in the early 1800s to build Fort Adams," he says. "The second wave came some 90 years later during the Gilded Age, to build Newport's famous seaside mansions. Many of the Irish heritage events we market to visitors today are still very much this community's homegrown celebrations."
From Boston's fabled celebrations to the crowds that throng Savannah, Ga., San Antonio, Texas, and Kansas City, Mo., there's nary an American city that isn't offering a bit of the Luck o' the Irish in March. Some highlights:
Boston: Four out of every 10 Bostonians claim Irish heritage, so it's no wonder that the city has dubbed March the "Month of St. Patrick." On March 17, some 600,000 visitors and 20,000 marchers are expected for the city's 100th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Other significant celebrations include the annual St. Patrick's Day Celebration and Best Irish Coffee Contest at Boston City Hall and the Chieftains in concert at Boston Symphony Hall.
For information, call toll-free, 1-800-SEE-BOSTON or visit the Web site www.BostonUSA.com.
Chicago: Just about anyone who owns a television set knows that Chicagoans tint the Chicago River green in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. From March 16-18, the Windy City's pubs resound with celebrations of traditional music and food.
For information, call 1-800-2CONNECT or visit www.cityofchicago.org/tourism.
Kansas City, Mo.: On March 17, Kansas City hosts the third-largest St. Patrick's Day Parade in the United States. The Lake of the Ozarks, located in central Missouri, is the locale for the St. Pat's Day Water Parade and the annual Leprechaun Leap.
For information, contact the Missouri Division of Tourism,
1-800-865-8285 or visit www.missouritourism.org.
Newport, R.I.: The 24th annual Newport Irish Heritage Month celebrates this seaside New England city's 200-year history of Irish culture. Events include the Kinsale, Ireland, Festival of Fine Food, the 25th Annual Parade in Honor of St. Patrick, and celebrations and corned-beef-and-cabbage dinners at local restaurants and pubs.
Lodging prices in Newport in March are also the lowest of the year.
For information, contact the Newport County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1-800-326-6030, or visit the Web site: www.GoNewport.com.
New York City: The oldest and largest in the United States (1792), New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade features over 400 organizations, 165,000 marchers and 400 bands, including 50 bagpipe bands. The parade steps off at 11 a.m. on March 17 at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue, and heads up Fifth Avenue to 86th Street.
For visitor information, visit the Big Apple visitor Web site www.nycvisit.com, or call 1-800-NYC-VISIT.
San Antonio, Texas: Leprechauns meet the frontier at this city's 11th Annual Alamo Irish Festival, slated for March 16-18. The Dyeing o' the River Green Parade and Irish Show transforms the fabled River Walk into a miniature "River Shannon."
Activities include live music, food and beverage booths, arts and crafts, cultural displays, singing and dancing. A solemn wreath-laying ceremony at the Alamo Shrine honors the Irish who defended the Alamo alongside the Americans.
For information, call the Harp and Shamrock Society of Texas, 1-210-497-8435. Web site: www.sanantoniocvb.com.
Savannah, Ga.: Savannah's celebrations of St. Patrick's Day and Irish heritage date back to 1813 with the formation of the Hibernian Society, the oldest Irish society in the United States. The annual parade, scheduled for March 17, is the second-largest in the country, after New York City.
The three-day St. Patrick's Day Festival on the River, March 16-18, is expected to draw 300,000 to 500,000 revelers. Activities include live music and entertainment, food and drink, shopping and children's activities.