From 1976 until 2006 - I lived in a beautiful Southern US city named "Savannah". Set along the Atlantic Coast where the Savannah River meets the sea - this beautifully preserved Colonial city boasts several important historical achievements.
It is the first planned city in North America, the oldest city in the State of Georgia and is the original capital of the State (before Atlanta). It has been a strategically important shipping (ocean) port since it was founded and has been an important military port through every major war experienced by the United States since the Revolutionary War against England (which won the USA its independence from the Commonwealth in 1776). I watched military transport ships - a countless stream of them - get loaded for the War in the Middle East after September 11th, 2001. Savannah is located in the heart of one of the most heavily saturated military regions in the United States. During the Cold War it was number 3 on the Russian Nuclear Strike List because of its strategic importance. And any given day of the week any direction you look there will be off-duty military personnel and their families enjoying the city.
Savannah didn't suffer the same devastation that most colonial age cities experienced during the American Civil War (1861-1865). As a result Savannah has some of the best preserved examples of Colonial and Antebellum (pre-Civil War) architecture in existence.
For this reason Savannah also boasts one of the largest Nationally Registered Historic Districts in the Nation. The Savannah Historic District includes the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America), the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (one of the South's first public museums), the First African Baptist Church (one of the oldest African American Baptist congregations in the United States), Temple Mickve Israel (the third-oldest synagogue in America), the Central of Georgia Railway roundhouse complex (the oldest standing antebellum rail facility in America), the old Colonial Cemetery, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and Old Harbor Light.
Savannah draws millions of visitors and tourists each year, with tourism being one of the largest economic engines for the city (behind the large container ports, expansive military installations such as Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, and other industrial enterprises such as aircraft manufacturing with Gulfstream Aeronautics, etc...).
For over 190 years Savannah has also celebrated another unique moniker - The Greenest City in the South - and not green for the lush forests and marshes which surround the city, but green as in "St. Patrick's Day Green". For the past 65 years Savannah has hosted one of the largest St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the World. This year - 2015 - Savannah's week long celebration is estimated to be the 3rd largest in the World.
When you live in Savannah, you usually fall into one of two groups regarding St. Patrick's Day (and the 300,000-500,000 drunken visitors it draws into town for 5-7 days of parties, brawls, revelry, and general stupidity - all of which has NOTHING to do with a Catholic Saint, BTW), you either look forward to the event all year or you dread every second leading up to it.
I have a love-hate relationship with St. Patrick's Day in Savannah. First, the Historic District was designed for horse-drawn carriages - not cars (obviously) - so it's difficult enough to navigate on a normal day - add the parade routes, crowds, and extra traffic and downtown becomes a DMZ - a no-drive zone full of traps and frustration. I am not a drinker - I am the opposite - I NEVER drink alcohol in any form. So the novelty of drunk people wears on me quickly. And St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Savannah occurs during the spring rainy season - and 2 out of 3 times the celebration will be wet - humid, sticky - or worse; cold.
All of those negative points aside; the part I love is the pure brazen inane nature of the event. It's a matter of city-wide pride to throw the largest, craziest party - which in the South is only upstaged by Marti Gras itself - the city draws some of the most colorful, eccentric, and weird individuals the South has to offer. It is in short; a photo-journalist's dream come-true.
The last time I dared to brave the crowds and traffic to embrace the insanity was 2003 - twelve years ago. The photos attached to this card are 12 years old. My son (the little boy kissing the woman in Antebellum dress) is a junior in high-school this year. Shot on an old DSC Kodak/Nikon professional camera (a Nikon F5 body with a Kodak digital camera sensor inside), these photos where a whopping 2.5 MP back in the day. LOL. Later that year I'd get my first Nikon D1X - a far superior camera.
What is most notable about these photos is they could pretty much be from any year of the celebration these past 20 years. Very little changes. There were no smart-phones - just bulky hand-helds and little flip phones, and the cars and trucks in the parade are a little older, but the rest of it - it looks the same every year.
If you are ever in the Savannah area and have been smart enough to reserve a hotel room a full year in advance, go there and experience it just once. Who knows? You may decide it's something you want to experience each year... but for me... I sat in the calm, cool, quiet comfort of my Southern California home yesterday and was VERY happy that my St. Patrick's Day in Savannah days are over. Éirinn go Brách!
* The first card above - the very large man dressed as a Girl Scout selling Girl Scout Cookies - this photo is even more odd because it was shot in front of the Juliette Gordon Low House - the birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. Little weird things like this - and the fact that I am willing to bet that neither of the two larger celebrations have Civil War (Rebel - Southerner) marching bands in them. LOL. It's a weird thing to witness, no doubt.