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St. Patrick's Day comes early this year in North Myrtle Beach, but the celebration is right on time. Despite falling five days before the actual holiday, the North Myrtle Beach St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival features great family fun and good times for grown-ups unlike many of the same-day festivities held on the Grand Strand and throughout the Carolinas.
Commemorating its 28th anniversary, the March 12 North Myrtle Beach St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival is a time-honored tradition as well as a rite of spring on the Strand. An estimated 30,000 revelers are expected to join in the free festivities, which run all day Saturday and are followed by plenty of all-night after parties in the Horseshoe district.
Arrive early and park for free before the streets are closed on Ocean Drive between Second Avenue North and Second Avenue South. Parade-goers line the sidewalks and streets to see the floats and catch trinkets before flocking to the festival grounds in the heart of downtown for live music, food and drink booths, arts and crafts vendors, and a kiddie play area.
Irish-themed and green colored floats cruise down the main drag, towed by open convertibles carrying pageant queens and local celebrities. Marching bands, cheerleaders and various civic and youth groups join in the procession as clapping crowds root them on and jockey for position to catch the candy, beads and other prizes that are tossed into the masses.
After the grand marshal passes and waves, the real party is just getting started. The streets stay closed and the crowd gathers around the stages in lawn chairs and beach blankets. A full day of entertainment is offered on each stage, with the Green Stage in the Horseshoe (at the end of Main Street and Ocean Drive) offering great live music. Retrograde takes the stage at 11 a.m., followed by beach music by Chocolate Chip and Company at 1:45 p.m. as attendees can go shagging in the streets.
The Main Stage is on the other end of Main Street (near Flynn’s Irish Tavern) and features more holiday-themed activities. At 11 a.m., Band on the Rum plays the Main Stage, followed by Coastal Pipes and Drums (11:45 a.m.), Wake District Pipe and Drums (12:45 p.m.), Tan and Sober Gentleman (1 p.m.), and the Leprechaun Contest and Shepherd’s Pie Eating Contest (2:15 p.m.).
The Community Stage (at the corner of Main Street and Oak Drive) features more local and regional acts and performances. The Myrtle Beach Regional Pipes and Drums opens the show at 11 a.m., followed by the Triple Toe Cloggers (11:15 a.m.), the Parade Awards (11:45 a.m.), Coastal Pipe and Drums (12:45 p.m.), the Ocean Drive Elementary School Chorus (1:30) and headliner Folk ‘Em (2:15 p.m.)
Meanwhile, rows of vendor tents will be set up along Main Street and at nearby McClain Park, where patrons can try Irish beer and food, like corned beef and cabbage and bangers and mash. Arts and crafts booths and other vendors will be shopping their wares, and a special Kids Zone will offer inflatable play sets, games and other activities for the little ones. After the party, folks without children in tow visit the local dance clubs to go shag dancing at Fat Harold's, OD Lounge and the Spanish Galleon.
For guests staying at North Beach Plantation for the actual date of St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), there are numerous other gatherings to celebrate the holiday near North Beach Plantation. Irish bars in North Myrtle Beach, like Molly Darcy’s, Flynn’s Irish Tavern and Bully’s Pub at Barefoot Landing go all out for the occasion, and Broadway at the Beach’s Celebrity Square hosts a big outdoor party in Myrtle Beach. Whichever day you celebrate, have a good time and, as they say in Ireland, may good luck pursue you each morning and night.