Sporting a lime green-and-white mohawk and wearing shamrock-shaped plastic green glasses, 9-year-old Lucas Legault waved frenziedly from the crowd as several ROTC groups and service men and women marched along Pope Avenue on Sunday afternoon during Hilton Head Island's 28th annual St. Patrick's Parade.
Although Legault is from Ontario, Canada, his favorite part of the annual parade is watching members of the U.S. military -- such as the group from Savannah's Hunter Army Airfield -- march in their uniforms, his mother, Kelly, said from their spot near the parade's starting point.
The Legault family, who have been attending the parade for at least 15 years, try to schedule their spring trip to the island to coincide with the event, his mother said.
"The kids don't remember it, but they've been coming to the parade since they were babies," said Kelly Legault of Lucas and her daughter, Chloee, 4. "It's a tradition."
The family joined nearly 22,000 other spectators -- including event volunteers, local participants, and some visitors, like the Legaults, who attend the parade annually -- who showed up for the 3 p.m. event, according to parade co-chairwoman Kim Capin.
Island visitor Nancy Lackner, of Washington, D.C., attended the event with family members who traveled from Orlando, Fla., to attend.
"As tourists, we are thrilled by this parade," she said. "We love being a part of it."
The parade included commercial floats and about 100 entries and was led by grand marshals from the Heritage Classic Foundation, who donned their customary red tartan jackets.
Capin has said the grand marshal selection was a way for Hilton Head residents to support the foundation, a nonprofit organization that runs the Heritage golf tournament and is searching for a new title sponsor to sustain the PGA Tour event.
"People had a great time," Capin said. "It's been such a cold winter and today turned out beautiful. It's just a lot of fun."
Five float awards, including the Irish Heritage Award, were presented by the committee judges to the top floats. For the second year in a row, the Grand Marshal Award went to the island's Wexford Plantation for a float manned by neighborhood children and other residents, said Sue Minter, president of the community's homeowners association.
"We're so excited to win for the second time," Minter said. "The kids helped decorate and blow up balloons. It's a great event for us to participate in. We love being a part of the community."
About 25 girls ages 5 to 18 from Hilton Head Extreme, a cheer club, jumped, cheered and performed stunts the length of the parade route.
Owner and coach Beth Mitchell said the club has participated in the parade for about six years.
"The girls have a lot of fun with it. It's good to be involved," she said.
Parade entries varied and included groups from Hilton Head Island High School, Bluffton's May River Theatre Co., the Farmers Market of Bluffton, the Filipino Organization of Beaufort County and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry.
Even Hilton Head Mayor Drew Laughlin got into the act, riding the parade route in a convertible.
"It's a great day for Hilton Head Island," he said.
Beaufort County Sheriff's Office deputies and Highway Patrol officers manned the parade route to deter rowdy spectators, but no major incidents had been reported to duty officers by 7 p.m., Lt. Jim Walton said.
Several bars and restaurants near the route also held outdoor parties for spectators before and after the event.
Parade committee member Alan Perry of Hilton Head said the parade is a premiere event for the island.
"We just love the parade route. And it's a free event that supports all the local businesses," Perry said. "There's a lot that goes on along Pope (Avenue) and it's a great way to showcase it."