Syracuse, NY – Of course, the weather for Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade blew. He blew a lot. He blew up a pile of shiny green cardboard pixie hats down South Salina Street.
It was cold. It was 21 degrees at the time of the parade, but it was around 15 degrees with 21 mph winds. We had to pin two green carnations to the lapels of our parkas, and the only thing that got between our hands and our Bud Light cans were quarter-inch-thick gloves. We had no choice but to cover our temporary clover tattoos with green scarves.
So what! We live in Syracuse, New York. We got over it. In a very big way.
“Yeah, we did,” said Joe Rainone, Benjamin’s owner on Franklin. His bar quickly filled up after the parade (pictured above). “We’re getting back to it quickly. This is very fun.
It was the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade we were allowed to have since Covid-19 shut down everything in 2020. We patiently dealt with it. And on Saturday, we got our parade back.
Syracuse didn’t skip a beat. The parade was a mirror image of the last in 2019. We had Irish dancers leading politicians, police and firefighters and 106 other groups marching through the city centre. All the while, people have been sneaking into side street pubs to meet old friends for a pinch and a bite to eat.
It was one more case that led us to believe that life in central New York was returning to normal.
First call around the corner
Matthew Holt and Mike Varre have been the first to enter Kitty Hoyne’s Irish Pub and Restaurant on parade day for the past 23 years. Saturday was no different. They waited patiently outside until 7:50 a.m. when David Hoyne unlocked the door.
They immediately ordered a few pints of Guinness, and maybe an Irish coffee or two. By the time they finished their order, they had landed in the southeast corner of the bar. They and their rotating group of three to five friends stayed there all day and late into the night. It was like that, and that’s how it was. This is how it will always be, Holt said.
“Yesterday my wife asked me what I would do for the parade. I said I would pick Mike up at 7:15. Conversation over,” he said. “She laughed. She knew what I would do. It doesn’t change.
They never go to the parade. They can watch some of the TV coverage on NewsChannel 9, but they hold court in their corner. Whenever one of them has to visit the men’s room, they make sure there are at least two left to secure their spot.
“We’ll be there when you come back from the parade,” Varre said. “I guarantee you.”
First Irish Breakfast
In the dining room just around the corner, every table was occupied by 9am. Families are pretty good at making reservations weeks in advance to grab a traditional Irish breakfast before hunkering down and trudging up Salina Street. Paul Sheedy, piper of the Syracuse Scottish Pipe Band who has been in the parade since 1988, has reserved the largest table in the dining room.
This year was special. It’s the first parade day for her granddaughter, Maura Sheedy-Davis. She turned 13 months on Friday. She would have come last year, but the pandemic has moved the parade away.
“She’ll be dancing in the parade before you know it,” he said.
United we march
At 10:30 a.m., members of the Syracuse Fire Department began gathering four blocks away at the Evergreen Tavern in Hanover Square. It is here that every active and retired firefighter receives the traditional green carnation pinned to the lapel of their jacket. They are among the first groups to arrive at Clinton Square at noon.
Over the next 90 minutes and over coffee and donuts, they swapped stories about calls they had answered over the past few weeks and bragged about how good the food was at their station.
“This is one of the few times we can get everyone together here,” Syracuse Fire Chief Michael Monds said. “It’s a relief. We can have fun and not worry about work. Tomorrow we’ll come back to it. Then we’ll take care of work.
Irish eyes are crying
There’s nothing quite like being in a downtown pub or the Syracuse Hotel when a pipe band suddenly appears. Everything stops.
You might be engaged in a heated debate about why gas prices are so high, or you might be arguing about the merits of Syracuse University basketball’s zone two-three. No matter. Once that crisp two-bar drum roll begins and the hum of bagpipe crescendos begins, everyone stops what they’re doing and turns to listen and show respect. On Saturday, the Syracuse Kiltie Pipe Band and the Syracuse Scottish Pipe Band strolled from party to party at the downtown Marriott.
Every once in a while, you might see a tear or two during “Amazing Grace,” and you’d see applause as they performed “Scotland the Brave.”
Once the musicians stopped playing and headed to their next stop, the conversations would return to normal, generally more civil.
We ain’t done yet
The same bartenders who mixed one hell of an Irish coffee and poured a perfect pint of Guinness at 8am were getting stronger 12 hours later. So were all their fans. There were just a lot more of these fans as the night progressed.
“Oh no, we’re a long way from coming home,” said one youngster. “We’re not done yet. Are you?”
Welcome, Syracuse. It’s great to see you again.
Charlie Miller finds the best of food, drink and fun in central New York. Contact him at (315) 382-1984or by email at [email protected]. You can also find it under @HoosierCuse on Twitter and on instagram.
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