Irish pride spilled over yesterday afternoon as thousands crowded the streets of South Boston to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The 108th South Boston parade stretched from the Broadway T station to the Andrew T Station and an array of green clad spectators, including pets.
Anxious to get the best view of the parade, many people stationed lawn chairs along Broadway while others perched on rooftops and porches.
Marion Garner,72, formerly of South Boston, sported a green, feathered boa while sitting on porch steps on East Broadway. She said that watching the bands is her favorite part of the parade.
Theresa Kowalski, 25, one of many spectators from out of state, said she enjoyed the atmosphere. "There are a lot of breaks [in the parade]. I like it, the parade people are friendly," said the Oak Park, Ill., resident who partook in the festivities for the first time.
"The spirit is here," added her friend, Liz Fahey, 26, of Brighton.
Police reported 17 parade-related arrests for drinking in public and/or disorderly conduct. There were 12 arrests last year, and 30 in 2006.
Citizens of Boston also showed their pride in members of the military.
Members of the Marine Corps marched at the request of former South Boston resident Maureen O'Haire of Rockland, whose son, Walter O'Haire, died in Iraq in May 2007.
To honor her son's love of the holiday, O'Haire assembled 22 members of his platoon with money from the federal government, given to her when her son died. The Marines turned their heads and smiled as they passed the cheering O'Haire, her friends, family, and supporters at O Street and Broadway.
O'Haire, who wore a gray fur coat and shoes with a shamrock print, ran into the street and hugged several of the men with whom her son had served.
"It was wonderful. It was a great feeling," O'Haire said after the Marines passed. "They were more than willing to come, those guys. They wanted to come. They were begging to be on the list. I am very appreciative that I got 22 guys."
The corner also was crowded with strangers, many of whom greeted O'Haire throughout the parade.
"It's sad, but it's nice," she said about strangers acknowledging her. "It also reminds them to be grateful that they are able to come up to me and having their freedom to do that."
The Marines were greeted with cheers of 'thank you' and 'Semper Fi,' from onlookers, many of whom ran up to the group, hugging and leaving lipstick on some faces.
"I don't think I've ever felt so appreciated, as being here down in South Boston. Everyone was just so wonderful," said Marine Lance Corporal Ariel White of Georgia.
There also was support for the South Boston community. A banner hanging over Broadway at Emerson Street advertised the South Boston Fire Fundraiser, designed to supplement the fund which was depleted helping victims of a deadly New Year's Eve fire on Emerson Street.
"So there is always a balance," said Tom Butler, 55, a South Boston resident.