St. Patrick's Day starts early in Healdsburg
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 9:32 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 3:57 p.m.
Several hundred St. Patrick's Day fans arrived before dawn Sunday to join in an annual Healdsburg parade that swept through downtown in a flurry of green garb, Irish revelry and community spirit.
The small-town event has grown larger each year, with more and more Healdsburg folks just wanting to take part and get their Irish on early.
They flocked to the B&B Lounge, the parade's point of origin, beginning at about 6 a.m. to prepare for the 7 a.m. parade.
"It was magical to get up in the dark and come downtown," said Nola Colbert of Healdsburg.
"And watch all this come alive," said her husband, Tom, who sported a new-to-him, large green sweater and green hair.
He was referring to the hundreds of costumed and green-clad people and their dogs in a large crowd inside and outside of the bar waiting to start the parade.
For many, this year's whimsical St. Patrick's Day parade was bittersweet. Hosted for about 16 years by the bar, this parade could be the last as the B&B Lounge must move in April, having lost its lease, owner Bill Coleman said.
"We started with four or five guys and ended up with this. It's the biggest one we've had," said Coleman, who was overwhelmed by the massive crowd filling the bar and an adjacent lot.
"They know this may be the last year," Coleman said. "They really came out."
Coleman, who has owned the bar for 26 years, plans to relocate, perhaps north of town. But what will happen to the parade remains unclear, he said.
Several suggested it was too popular and too much of a growing, local tradition to let go.
Sunday's crowd was massive by all estimates, including a retired police officer who put the number at about 800.
It began as it does each year, with a bagpiper.
As the man in the green kilt and pipes stepped onto Healdsburg Avenue, he was followed by people of all ages.
Behind them came a handful of classic cars and a St. Patrick's Day parade queen.
It was quick, maybe 15 or so minutes.
The parade route goes from the bar, just off the town plaza, around the square and back. Healdsburg police don't even close the streets as traffic is so light at that early hour and the parade is over so quickly.
"It doesn't matter if you're Irish or not," said first-time participant Gisela Babb of Healdsburg. "I loved it."
Santa Rosa resident Laura Wiley walked in the parade, pushing her granddaughter in a stroller accompanied by her sister-in-law Tracey Foster, also of Santa Rosa.
"A parade at 7, that doesn't make sense to me," said Wiley, who noted she was cold but still entertained as she moved around the square in a matter of minutes. "What do we do after?"
Several said they were either heading for breakfast, a nearby coffee shop, back to the bar, off to find a less crowded bar or back to bed.
Afterward, parade queen Kendall Peterson, who was resplendent in a kelly green ballgown and sash, was taking photos with parade participants.
Peterson, a regular patron of the B&B, said she was honored to have been voted this year's queen by other bar patrons she considered family.
"It was so much fun," she said, a little tearful with the thought of the changes ahead for the bar and possibly the parade. "I've never had this much fun."