Across Salina Street, the crowd was sparse. And for parents calmly unaware of the inebriated chaos ensuing on the sunny side of the street, it was fear and claustrophobia. Every direction you looked on that bright sidewalk displayed a human galaxy of green-colored uppers, downers, laughers, screamers—and also hands gripping quarts of whisky, quarts of scotch, cases of beer, and I swear I saw a pint of raw ether.
Not that anyone needed all of these intoxicants for the parade, but since open container laws are ignored on this day—as off-duty city cops and firefighters were also feeling groovy—the tendency seemed to be to push it as far as you could. For the parents trying to find a dispersed respite, they couldn’t push their kids’ strollers out of the mayhem fast enough. And as soon as the Syracuse Kiltie Pipe Band began marching down Salina Street at high noon to kick off the parade, crossing the street to the shaded and far less crowded side became an obstructed impossibility.
“We definitely chose the wrong side of the street,” said George Spivey of Phoenix, who attended the parade with his wife and two kids, as he finally found calm near Onondaga Street past the Galleries and toward the end of the parade route. “It took us about 20 minutes to get from the Landmark to here and the one in the stroller finally calmed down. But now he’s having the time of his life; just have to pick and choose a little wiser next year.”
Of course, it wasn’t all tears and fears. This might be the only day of the year—aside from a prime-time Orangemen victory at the Carrier Dome—that this many people congregate and enjoy life harmoniously in Syracuse, albeit vicariously through a nationality stereotyped for drinking too much. Hey, if only Irish Car Bombs were the drink of choice in the Middle East instead of actual car bombs, maybe peace could be attained. It sure worked here.
Actually, the only unbearable aspect of the parade was trying to move from one place to another. But if you remained stationary, the only thing you had to worry about was someone bumping into you and spilling your drink. And even the local celebrities who were participating in the parade seemed to be having just as good a time as the revelers. Recently retired WSYR-Channel 9 personality Mike Price, who was designated as one of two Gaels for the parade (the other being retired Post-Standard columnist Jackie Coley), could not refrain from dancing a jig at every possible chance—leaving one to wonder if someone spiked his shorts with itching powder that morning.
Unlike last year when it was rumored that former Illinois-via-Arkansas-via-New York Senator, and now U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was supposed to show up, and didn’t, the kept-under-wraps appearance of Sen. Charles Schumer surprised everyone as he walked the route. The boos and cheers seemed as equally split as a black and tan.
But regardless of politics and who drunk what and how much, if at all, the parade is one of the few events that brings this city together, which is what we need to do during this financially and peacefully unstable time in America. “I guess you can say I’m doing my part to help the economy thrive,” said Tom Olsak of Brewerton, “even it means keeping a few bars in business around here. But even beyond that, I think this really shows that the will of the people always seems to prevail and people will find happiness under any circumstance. And hopefully everyone takes a little of this with them home from here and it spreads.”