30a St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Florida’s gorgeous Emerald Coast is a great place to be during the winter months, and even better this Saturday as the region hosts its 6th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Founder and organizer Paul Vizard gives us the scoop!

What are your roles and responsibilities with the event?
Founder and organizer, from soup to nuts. But I can’t do it without the help of our team of volunteers, sponsors, and the local Fire and Sheriff’s Office, as well as the local Tourist Development Council Visit South Walton.

What is the event’s core mandate?
The object of the event is to provide a stimulus to the local businesses, and give us a good excuse to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. As a native of Ireland I was curious why there had never been anything along those lines here, and where better to start one than the Emerald Coast.

How has it grown over the years?
The first year was just a parade and no festival. We had 20 odd entries, but it was altogether a really fun time, and now it’s a parade plus the festival on the green, by the green, with a special green award for non gas entries.

Who attends the gathering?
We have a mix of locals and visitors. Over 2 million people visit this area annually and now the event gathers folks from out of town to come just for the event. I never dreamed it would be as large as it is today.

What can they expect to experience this year?
This year has more entries than ever so parade viewers will see many larger floats. Mithril is the Celtic band this year that play to sold out audiences in Mobile and also play with Symphonies. We also have more vendors at the festival so the festival goers will have great shopping and food and drinks.

Why is it an important event for the Celtic community there?
While the Celtic community is kind of sparse here, that’s the point of starting the event so as to attract more folks from Celtic descent, and of course entertain the community as a whole.

What are the plans for the event in the years ahead?
We anticipate large headliner bands in the future, and there is still room for expansion for the vendor area, as well as floats and parade entries.

Is enough being done to preserve and promote Celtic culture generally?
Definitely not, but this event is a good place to start. We have had some Irish themed restaurants and bars open, so I think the Celtic heritage is alive and well. And as this area grows in popularity, it will improve. North West Florida and the Beaches of South Walton in particular is an extraordinary part of the USA, and more people are getting to know that and come visit.

What can we be doing better?
Celtic Life is a brilliant vehicle for awareness of our heritage, so keep on doing what you are doing, it’s fantastic.