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Natchez gets into St. Patrick’s Day spirit

NATCHEZ — A cheerful tide of revelers wearing green T-shirts, dresses, beads, hats and glasses flowed straight down Main Street to the bluff on Thursday afternoon for the 21st annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.

St. Patrick XXI Bob McWilliams led the Krewe of Killarney’s non-motorized parade, staff and snake in hand, to the gazebo on the bluff.

Ed Blackburn, a 15-year resident of Natchez, brought his family to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. He sipped a bottle of Guinness as the parade made its way down the street.

“It’s Guinness, it’s Irish,” Blackburn said. “The tradition on St. Patrick’s Day is to drink Guinness. I’m from Irish heritage myself.”

Blackburn’s grandparents immigrated from Ireland to Detroit to work in the auto industry.

“I grew up real Irish,” he said. “That means a lot of Catholic church and stories from Ireland. The whole neighborhood was Irish in Detroit.

“My grandparents wanted me to marry and Irish girl, so I did,” Blackburn said, who accompanied his wife, Susan and three children, Liam, Mickey and Matilda.

“I must say, I miss my grandma today,” he said.

Vidalia Lower Elementary School student Luke Roberson, 8, remembered what his mother told him when he woke up on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Remember to wear green today,” Roberson said. “So you don’t get pinched!”

Before the Rev. David O’Connor of St. Mary Basilica introduced the man of the hour, he shared a few sentiments with the crowd.

“We want to thank the Irish for being here,” O’Connor said. “And for those of you who wish you were Irish, we’ll make you honorary citizens today.”

O’Connor noted the perfect weather and shared a prayer of thanks.

“Is Natchez a wonderful place to live or what?” McWilliams asked the green-speckled crowd that followed him to the bluff and answered with cheers.

Amazing Grace was played by a bagpiper and drummer as former St. Patricks and Mrs. Patricks held their flags at the gazebo.

Before McWilliams prepared to officially banish snakes from Natchez, a St. Patrick’s Day tradition, he advised the crowd to always remember to give thanks to the Heavenly Father, love your neighbor, support your county and try to give compliments every day.

McWilliams banished the snakes from Natchez by throwing them over the bluff.

“Guess where they’re going,” McWilliams said first, holding up a bag of plastic snakes. “Where the real snakes are.”

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand, O’Connor said, reciting an Irish blessing in closing at the ceremony.

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