Hilton Head St. Patrick's parade draws record crowd

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comMarch 17, 2013 

Beth Swift of Hilton Head Island and her Canadian girlfriends say they have found the secret to a successful St. Patrick's Day: Green beer at sunrise, shamrock tattoos at lunch, lots of corned beef and cabbage, and then "let your sham rock" at Hilton Head's 30th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Swift and friends Beatrix O'Morrallee and Janice McVey of Oakville Ontario, Canada, even managed to recruit some trainees.

"You've gotta learn if you're going to do St. Patrick's Day right," said Kat Ball, 22, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., who joined Swift and company along with friends Chelsey Elliott, 21, and Cristine Kuo, 22.

Nearly 28,000 people flocked to the parade, possibly making it the biggest spectacle of all, according to an estimate from a parade organizer.

There were 110 entries in the parade, including floats, cheerleaders, vintage cars, musical acts and marching bands -- including the ever-popular Parris Island Marine Corps band.

Stealing the show were the Budweiser Clydesdales, who made a long-awaited reappearance.

"Having the Clydesdales was great and seeing parade founder Tom Reilley (of Reilley's Bar & Grill) riding on the Clydesdales was just awesome," parade organizer Alan Perry said. "And the crowd was wonderful. It just couldn't have been better."

Traffic and alcohol consumption, however, continue to be a concern for law enforcement.

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office arrested two people during the parade for drug offenses and handed out 16 tickets -- the majority of which were for underage drinking and people walking the parade route with open containers of alcohol, according to Capt. Toby McSwain.

One underage person was so intoxicated he had to be taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Hilton Head Hospital, McSwain said.

McSwain also said another man was assaulted and found unconscious along the parade route. He also was taken by ambulance to Hilton Head Hospital. However, Sgt. Robin McIntosh said Monday the man had not been assaulted; he had a medical complaint.

Clearing parked cars off the parade route before the parade began and re-opening the south side of Pope Avenue afterwards also caused problems, tying up traffic on the south end of the island for about two hours Sunday night, McSwain said.

"It was an hour before we switched back to normal lanes because of the number of people walking down the parade route," he said. "It was a busy year. If it was not record numbers, it was near record. There weren't any gaps in the parade route and they were 15 to 20 people deep."

Considering the volume of people, McSwain said the parade was "relatively peaceful, but alcohol consumption continues to be a problem and doing it in that area is difficult."

"We'll probably have to add some manpower next year," McSwain said.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

Related content:

St. Patrick's Day Parade turns Hilton Head into a sea of green: March 12, 2012

Hilton Head Island St. Patrick's Day Parade

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