How far back does Boston's St. Patrick's Day history go?
Many forget that ours is technically a dual celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day, in honor of the holiday celebrated by exactly one county in the entire country (that would be Suffolk County, made up of Boston and parts of Chelsea and Everett). The holiday honors General George Washington’s first Revolutionary War victory, when he used cannons to fortify Dorchester Heights (now a central point of South Boston), ending an 11-month siege and causing the British to evacuate Boston on, yes, March 17. The calendar date coincidence led to our city’s strong Irish population making Evacuation Day an official holiday in 1941; the law was signed in both black and green ink.
For the last 30-plus years, it has also been a tradition mired in controversy. In 1992, the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB) applied to march in the parade, but the veterans alliance denied them permission. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court, which in 1995 ruled unanimously that the alliance, as a private organizer of the parade, had a legal right to protect its messaging. No Boston mayor marched in the parade for the next 20 years, until 2015, when the alliance allowed two gay and lesbian groups to participate. But just last year, one of those two groups, the LGBTQ veterans group OUTVETS, was initially banned from marching; it took enormous political and public pressure for Allied Veterans to back down. (Keep an eye peeled for the Peace Parade, organized by Veterans for Peace, which follows the main event and stands for peace, equality, jobs, environmental stewardship, and social and economic justice.)
What time does the parade start, and what is the route?
The parade starts at 1pm and lasts around two and a half hours. The 3.2-mile route begins at the corner of West Broadway and Dorchester Avenue, then marches up West Broadway before taking a soft left onto East Broadway. From there, it’s a right onto P Street (near Dorchester Heights) and another right onto East 4th Street, a left onto K Street, and another quick right onto East 5th Street. A short left onto G Street, a quick right onto Thomas Park, and then left onto Telegraph Street and Dorchester Street, ending up on the corner of Dorchester Street and Dorchester Avenue.
What’s my best viewing spot?
Pretty much wherever you can elbow your way in. Savvy boosters stake out choice viewing spots hours before start time by plunking down lawn chairs (we’ve even spotted dining room chairs on occasion). Any place along Broadway is a sure bet, especially if you commit to the day and snag a window seat at one of the restaurants lining the main thoroughfare. Medal of Honor Park and Thomas Park are two calmer options.