Saint Patrick's Day parades started in 1763 in New York City, not Ireland. That was fourteen years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, so we were still a British colony. The first parade was held by Irish soldiers serving in the British army in the colonies. The first parade wasn't about green beer or leprechauns. The parade was originally created to celebrate Irish immigrants. It wasn't until the 19th century that celebrating March 17 became widespread all over the world, and in the United States.
Even now, Saint Patrick's Day celebrates cultural diversity.
Of course, Arkansas has gotten in on the celebration. We have a fun parade in Little Rock and one of the most famous parades in the United States in Hot Springs.
Little Rock to North Little Rock Parade:
Little Rock's annual Saint Patrick's Day parade is presented by the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas. The parade includes traditional Irish dress, bag pipes, Celtic music and several fun floats. The parade feature clowns, Irish Wolfhounds, antique cars, decorative floats and more. It usually occurs on the Saturday closest to Saint Patrick's Day.
The parade and festivities are free and family friendly.
The parade begins in Little Rock and ends in North Little Rock. The Parade starts at Dugan's Irish Pub at (401 East 3rd Street, Little Rock, AR 72201), and the parade line-up will be on 4th Street. The parade turns right on Rock Street, then turn Right on 3rd, left on Sherman, left on Clinton Avenue and goes through the River Market. The parade then turns right at the Main Street Bridge and travels through the Argenta Historic Arts District. The three best viewing and performance areas for the parade are Third Street, the River Market District and the Argenta Arts District.
After the Parade:
In 2016, the first annual Argenta Irish Festival will take place after the parade. There will be musical performances and traditional Irish dance performances on the grandstand. Among the entertainment will be traditional Irish dance performances by the McCafferty School of Irish Dance and the O’Donovan School of Irish Dance. There will also be six breweries and three food trucks represented. They'll also have children's activities. The festival is sponsored by Diamond Bear Brewing Company.
The festival is also free, but food truck offerings and beverages are not.
Irish Pub & Festivities at Cregeen's:
If you just want to enjoy after parade festivities, go to Cregeen's Irish Pub, located in Argenta. They have lots of good Irish grub and drinks. They have live music on Saint Patrick's day from Jeff Coleman and the Feeders. The cover charge is $5.
The parade starts Saturday, March 18, 2016 at 1 p.m. The Irish festival will run from 2 to 5 p.m. at 6th and Main in North Little Rock.
World's Shortest Saint Patrick's Day Parade - Hot Springs:
The World's Shortest Saint Patrick's Day Parade is held every year on March 17 in Hot Springs. It's located on historic Bridge Street (map) in downtown Hot Springs. Bridge Street became famous in the 1940's when Ripley's Believe It or Not designated it "The Shortest Street in the World." It's lots of fun.
People from all over the country come to see this parade, so it gets a bit crowded.
In 2016, Kevin Bacon is the grand marshal with his brother Michael. Gary Busey is also a special guest.
Other Fun Saint Patrick's Day Ideas:
If you want to stay on the Little Rock Side of the River, all of the bars will be open. Many serve green beer for the occasion. If you ask me, you're better off going to one of our great microbreweries and getting some normal colored beer.
Check out this list of Irish Pubs and Bars for special events.