Pittsburgh’s colors may be black and gold, but they’ll soon be replaced by green and gold, as one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country prepares to take the streets.
Starting Saturday at 10 a.m., more than 23,000 participants, including some Olympic athletes, will march downtown along Grant Street and The Boulevard of the Allies.
Joining in the festivities this year are four-time Olympian and three-time medalist Lauryn Williams and gold medal-winning Irish Olympian Michael Carruth.
Williams medaled in Athens in 2004 and won gold in London in 2012 as a member of the 4x100m relay team. This year, the Beaver County native took silver as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Bobsled Team, making her the first American to medal in both the summer and winter Olympic Games.
Carruth, a native of Dublin, Ireland, won gold in welterweight boxing in Barcelona in 1992. He retired from competition in 2000, but continues to coach Ireland’s amateur boxing team.
Patrick O’Brien, parade chairman, said the parade itself doesn’t change that much from year-to-year, but there are always new guests.
“We’ll have the usual Irish dance schools, fight bands and from the Irish government, we have a minister, Denny McKinley, coming in to march in the parade,” he said.
Some famous vehicles can also be spotted at this year’s spectacle. The First Frontier Mechanized Cavalry will be showing off vehicles used in World War II, while some automobiles are bringing a little bit of Hollywood into the Steel City. The iconic cars from Back to the Future, Dukes of Hazzard, Ghost Busters and Jurassic Park will also ride along the parade path.
About 200,000 people are expected to venture downtown to watch this year’s parade.
“The weather is what really determines the actual crowd size,” O'Brien said. “We could have anywhere from, on a bad weather day, 150,000 to 300,000 plus on a good sunny day.”
O’Brien said Pittsburgh’s parade is the second largest in the U.S. behind New York City due to the city’s large Irish heritage. About 40 percent of people in the Pittsburgh region have some sort of Irish ancestry.
With enough people packed downtown to fill Heinz Field more than three times, O’Brien said the best way to get a good spot is to get their as soon as possible.
“Many people are already down there at 6:30, 7 o’clock with their chairs up on the curb,” he said. “Get there early if you would like the best seat in the house.”