NAPLES — The 33rd annual Naples St. Patrick’s Day Parade will roll in Saturday, celebrating all things Irish.
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The celebration begins at 9:30 a.m. with the traditional flag raising ceremony at Crayton Cove. This year’s commemoration will pay tribute to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America.
“This is what I look most forward to,” said Jim McEvoy, the parade committee chairman. “It’s not as colorful as the parade, but it’s a great way to start the day and honor our veterans.”
At 11 a.m., the parade begins at St. Ann’s Catholic Church on the corner of Third Street and Ninth Avenue South. It then travels down Third Street South to Fifth Avenue, goes down Eighth Street South and ends at Crayton Cove. Parade participants travel 1.8 miles for roughly two hours. Parking is located at the entrance of Fifth Avenue and 10th Street for a $5 donation. There is additional parking at Fifth Avenue and Goodlette Road.
“People come from all over to celebrate the wearing of the green,” said McEvoy, who has been chairman for two years. “Everyone is Irish that day.”
The largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Florida will have more than 120 units participating, including high school marching bands, pipe and drum bands, Celtic step dancers, college alumni groups and a host of floats.
“It has grown every year with more people attending and more people marching,” McEvoy said. “And bigger, more elaborate floats.”
This year’s floats include one sponsored by Opera Naples, which showcases their opera singers. The Southwest Florida Salem University Alumni will also have a float covered with 25,000 handmade crepe flowers and features a 10-foot tall leprechaun.
“We wanted to make something memorable and that celebrated St. Patrick’s Day,” said Joanne Ricciardiello, a member of the alumni group. “Something everyone would love.”
Following tradition, Jack Dempsey will make an appearance as St. Patrick himself, and this year’s Little Miss Smiling Irish Eyes, Morgan French, will greet parade goers. Naples Mayor Bill Barnett and Collier County Commissioner Georgia Hiller will also participate while Fox 4 News Anchor Patrick Nolan serves as grand marshal of the parade, starting it off in a red 1964 Corvette.
“It’s a big celebration for all to enjoy,” McEvoy said. “Bring your kids, your family and have a fun Irish time.”