Kickstarting the St. Patrick’s Day Season: The Savannah Irish Festival 2023 (Opinion)


If you’ve lived in Savannah for a year or longer, you’re certainly aware of Savannah’s ardent love for St. Patrick’s Day. Every year the city sings a love song of epic proportions to the Irish holiday in practices you are likely aware of, such as the annual greening of the Forsyth fountain, the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Parade (among the very largest in the country), and—on a year-round basis—local Irish or Irish-leaning eateries and shops peppered throughout the downtown Savannah area.

Delightful as all that is, there exists a fuller and better truth of the matter: how truly deeply Irish roots are tangled in our city, a subject that our institution has been pursuing in research endeavors both at home and overseas on our accumulating Wexford campus—but there I digress with a solemn promise to bring more on that basis and many others in the upcoming releases contained within this exciting, extended focus on Ireland’s footprint in the Hostess City throughout this year’s St. Patrick’s Day season.

For now, I passionately suggest we all get immediately and immensely excited to be on the campus we are on in the astoundingly culture-rich city we are in. Something Dr. Dwyer-Ryan, Armstrong’s associate director of The Center for Irish Research and Teaching, when I spoke to her called the “Kickoff to the St. Patrick’s Day season”—the Savannah Irish Festival—is rapidly approaching.

When we call this event the St. Patrick’s Day Kickoff, we do not do so lightly—the Savannah Irish Festival is the catalyst of an entire, slightly unsung season, fuller and longer than the holiday itself. The Irish Festival is immediately followed up by a series of alike and diverse events all around our city (one such event within our university—more on that in a future issue) which celebrate Savannah’s rich Irish culture all the way through into the well-known March 17th grand finale.

This festival is the first the city has seen since COVID restrictions rendered it implausible after 2020, but this St. Patrick’s Day season is sure to be as rich in culture as it ever was before with this as its springboard.

The program for the festival includes two sections—one of which is a ‘cultural area’ that includes a talk by Dr. Dwyer-Ryan on our own institution’s research and work on the historical relationship between Ireland and Savannah. The main stage, opening with St. Vincent’s Academy Chorale, is hosting local bands like Seldom Sober, as well as step-dancing performances from groups like The Legacy Irish Dancers.
The name of the game here and at the overwhelming majority of events within the season is, simply put, good old-fashioned fun: energetic Irish music, dancing, good food, and—if you’re of age, of course—drinks.

As we come swiftly upon this stimulating season, it is important to remember a few things: It is St. Paddy’s Day, not Patty’s; to enjoy the craic (Irish slang for a good time); and that if you cannot make it to the so-called kick-off, there will be plenty of other occasions for celebration through into the brink of April.

The Savannah Irish Festival is taking place at Savannah Station on Cohen Street, this Saturday, February 11th, and the opening ceremonies begin at 11 AM. Tickets are on sale here for 15 dollars. For more information on the permeation of Irish culture within our city and our university, and how you can join the craic within the season and beyond, stay tuned.