VERO BEACH – Crowds lined both sides of 14th Avenue through downtown Vero Beach waiting for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to pass by with the musical stylings of various bagpipe and drum groups.
“Everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day,” said Commissioner Bob Solari, who took in the parade under a large shade tree.
The parade lasted more than 20 minutes, from the moment the first participants strolled by to the last, making their way from the Vero Beach High School to the Vero Beach Community Center.
“I loved it,” said Joe Fleetwood, 7, who watched the parade with his sister, Victoria Cox, and their mom, Theresa Fleetwood. His favorite? The bagpipes.
The family arrived early enough to snag a shaded seat while they waited for the parade to progress nearer the Community Center. But once the first in line approached, Joe and Victoria dashed to the curb to get a better vantage point.
“I was amazed by the length,” Theresa Fleetwood said of the parade, noting that the previous St. Patrick’s Day Parades had been so short they were over before they began.
This is the third year the Vero Beach Elks Lodge has put on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade through downtown Vero Beach. Rather than compete for parade crowds next Saturday, when the Oceanside Business Association hosts its own St. Patrick’s Day Parade – on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 – the Elks opted to hold the parade a week early to kick start the Irish festivities.
Organizations from all over Florida traveled to Vero Beach to participate in the parade, including the Brevard Police and Fire Pipes and Drums, Eastside Elementary of Haines City, and the Florida Brass Alumni Drum and Bugle Corps of Tampa Bay.
Others represented in the parade included Grand Marshall Rhett Palmer, Eldest Elks Lodge Member Clara Johnston and the 2012 Elks Hoop Shoot State Champion Gracie Gordon.
Several leprechauns dotted the parade, nervously eyeing the crowd for any who might try to make a capture and find the pot of gold leprechauns are known for protecting.
The Indian River County Fire Girls’ pink fire truck put in an appearance, as did the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, the Republican Women of Indian River and the Indian River Democrats.
“I liked it,” said seasoned St. Patrick’s Day Parade-goer Ian Dillon, who serves as the vice president of an Irish-American organization in Massachusetts. “A lot of show, lot of play.”
He said that while he appreciated the bagpipes and drums, it wasn’t the same as having authentic Irish music, which is hard to find.
Dillon said he caught the tail end of the parade last year and knew he wanted to come back this year for it – and he’d come again after having watched this year’s parade.
“This one was one of the best,” said Gail Molloy said of the parade put on by the Elks Lodge. Amongst the bagpipers, the children and the antique cars, she said it was hard to choose her favorite.
She, her husband, and the friends they took with them to the parade were quick to head over to the Elks Lodge after the parade for their corned beef and cabbage – a traditional Irish dish.
“We wouldn’t miss it,” Jerry Baxter said.