An estimated 500,000 people will be getting their green on this weekend to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah, and authorities are warning folks to be smart about their boozing while enjoying the festivities.
While it is legal for people over 21 to drink alcohol on city streets and sidewalks in Savannah, there are laws you need to know before you go.
Last year, officers arrested 29 people and handed out at least 500 warnings during the two-day festival, WTOC reported.
This year, Savannah is stepping up its game against law breakers by adding on-site pop-up court, equipped with a judge and clerk to handle misdemeanor crimes like public urination, litter and underage drinking, according to WSAV.
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The two-day festival kicks off Friday, and the parade starts at 10:15 a.m. Saturday. It’s one of the largest St. Paddy’s celebrations in the U.S.
Here are seven things to know before you head out to Savannah for the celebrations:
1. Plan your ride / parking ahead of time.
There are several options for getting to the St. Patrick’s Day Festival stress-free:
- Take a $30- $50 party bus from Hilton Head or Bluffton to Savannah Friday and Saturday (book before time slots sell out).
- Take a $75 ferry from Broad Creek Marina on Hilton Head.
- Take a free shuttle from a free parking lot at Westside Shopping Center, Island Towne Centre, Rice Creek Elementary or at the Savannah Mall straight to downtown. Check online for specific times.
- Take a free ferry from Hutchinson Island to bring you directly to River Street.
- If you’re planning on parking close to downtown, know that space will be limited and costs $5-$25. Download a map for help.
2. Get a wristband as soon as you get there if you’re drinking.
Anyone drinking alcohol outside in the River Street and City Market area is required to wear a wristband, which can be purchased for $10 each day at various locations throughout the area (look for white tents). Wristbands are not required inside of establishments serving alcohol.
It’s a $100 fine for drinking without a wristband in the festival area and it’s a $200 fine for minors to drink or possess alcohol. Law enforcement will be on wristband patrol from 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday in the control zone.
3. Know the drinking laws. And the fines.
- No double fisting! Or holding a drink for you and a friend. Fine: $121.
- Don’t carry an alcoholic drink larger than 16 ounces. Fine: $150.
- No drinking from a can, bottle or glass. Fine: $150.
- Don’t drink alcohol while sitting in a parked vehicle. Fine: $150.
- Don’t be a dumb drunk (aka disorderly conduct by fighting or indecency). Fine: $500.
- Don’t smoke weed, either. Despite Savannah’s new city ordinance lessening the punishment for marijuana possession, the Chatham County Sheriff warned that his deputies will still be taking violators to jail, WTOC reported.
4. Know the parade route.
The parade kicks off at 10:15 a.m. Saturday near Forsyth Park. Go early. You can also book individual seating in the bleachers for $30-$40 by calling (800) 442-6152.
5. Keep a porta-potty map close.
Urinating in public is the most common offense resulting in an arrest at this festival. Don’t be that guy/girl, y’all. Also it’s a $200 fine.
6). Do not swim in the river.
Swimming in the Savannah River is not only illegal, it’s incredibly dangerous. But year after year, Savannah Police end up nabbing a few drunkards who thought it was a good idea to take a dip.
Last year, this was a big problem when a man ended up getting tased by police after swimming in the river. Save the trouble, and stay dry this year.
7) Big changes this year at Chippawa Square.
Not allowed: Grills, amplified sound, kegs, scaffolding, advertisements and barriers. Also no bartenders or private security.
This year, styrofoam coolers, tables, tents and nonfolding chairs will not be allowed inside Chippewa Square. In the other squares, you can bring tables, chairs and 10-by-10 tents, but you must take those down by 6 p.m. Saturday.
And finally, if you’re going to River Street, do not wear any sort of high heels and, for goodness sake, be careful on the Stone Stairs of Death.