St. Patrick’s Day

“It’s just what you do in Dallas for St. Patrick’s Day.”

Witnessing the Greenville Avenue St. Patrick’s Parade puts you in a quasi fraternity of sorts.  It’s a little like going to Mardi Gras and then again not so much.  This occasion is truly unique.  The parade has become the signature event of the St. Patrick’s celebration for our fair city.  Many Dallasites have attended and bared witness to the evolution of this neighborhood parade from about ten pickup trucks and a couple of flatbeds to the largest St. Patrick’s parade in the Southwest. 

It all began in 1979 and was really nothing more than just a few vehicles, more than a few cold ones and a dream.  There was a quick trip down the street, sometimes amidst traffic, a few honks and waves and then back to the bar.  The parade actually began on lower Greenville Ave. and was a nice little community event for those first few years.  Word got around about this little neighborhood spectacle and attendance began to grow.  So much in fact that the residents in the adjacent neighborhoods felt that they were too close to the traditional St. Patrick’s Day revelry and they overwhelmingly spoke out to their area council person.  And in 1987 the Dallas City Council cancelled the event entirely. 

Later that year a group of like-minded business owners banded together to form the Greenville Avenue Area Business Association (G.A.A.B.A.) in an effort to keep the parade going.  Negotiations between G.A.A.B.A. and the city began with number of issues ranging from crowd control to littering.  One stipulation from the city was that the parade was to be moved to the North, where the residential neighborhoods would not be disturbed.  Also, the wider street would allow emergency services and police to better access the area’s businesses and residents during the parade.  Although G.A.A.B.A. was tenacious in its attempt to persuade the city to accept the parade’s application, in 1988 the city stood firm in its decision and the parade was officially called off. 

This, however, did not sway the public’s demand for this parade.  So one spontaneously occurred.  The signs on the make-shift floats stated “this is not a parade” and it was anything but.  The un-parade was the indicator that this parade was here to stay.  The city soon relented, who knows really for what reason, and the permit for the 1989 Greenville Ave. St. Patrick’s Parade was granted.  That year’s parade received rave reviews in the Dallas Morning News as “a real hum-dinger and a lot of fun for the whole family.”  There were over 20,000 spectators that year, a green longhorn steer, three elephants with green toenails and the same councilperson who had so adamantly opposed the parade in previous years even served as a judge.

In the years that followed, the parade has embedded itself deeply in Dallas folklore.  “It’s just what you do in Dallas for St. Patrick’s Day.”  This parade offers something for everyone’s taste, be it bad or good.  Those who remember this parade’s humble beginnings could have never imagined it would reach these phenomenal proportions.  With one hundred plus floats and attendance close to one hundred thousand, this “little neighborhood” parade rivals other top ten metropolitan areas such as Boston, Chicago, and New York.  The Greenville Ave. St. Patrick’s Parade is traditionally held the Saturday preceding St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th around 11:00 am.