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Everybody's Irish for one day at St. Patrick's Day parade

| Saturday, March 16, 2013, 10:51 p.m.
Collecting beads was a popular pastime for parade participants and watchers during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16th, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Collecting beads was a popular pastime for parade participants and watchers during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16th, 2013.
Kevin Larkin of Verona rides his unicycle during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Kevin Larkin of Verona rides his unicycle during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16, 2013.
Members of the Conboy Clan spray silly string into the crowd during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16th, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Members of the Conboy Clan spray silly string into the crowd during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16th, 2013.
Members of the South Fayette Marching Band, 'The Big Green Machine,' perform during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Members of the South Fayette Marching Band, 'The Big Green Machine,' perform during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16, 2013.
Rich O'Malley, of Castle Shannon, portrays St. Patrick during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16th, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Rich O'Malley, of Castle Shannon, portrays St. Patrick during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16th, 2013.
Members of the Shovlin Academy dance for the crowd during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Members of the Shovlin Academy dance for the crowd during the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Downtown, Saturday, March 16, 2013.

Strands of green beads flew through the air, and so did the spray from cans of silly string.

Irish dance groups tapped out Irish jigs, high school marching bands belted out tunes and candidates for mayor shook a lot of hands — so it was as thousands of people marched and even more watched the St. Patrick's Day parade Downtown on Saturday.

For sisters Linda Regan, 56, and Nancy Regan, 66, both of Dormont, watching the parade roll by was part of a 50-year tradition started by their father, Tom, who died in 2005.

Linda Regan proudly said her father was still watching the parade, pointing out a small picture of him she had pinned to her chest.

“Whether there's a blizzard, or it's hot or cold, we've been here,” Linda Regan said, referring to the 1993 blizzard that shut down the city but couldn't stop the parade. The event, billed as the second-largest in the nation, dates to 1869.

Parade organizers expected more than 150,000 people, and sidewalks were crowded along the parade route.

“Everybody here's having a good time,” Linda Regan said from her spot on the Boulevard of the Allies.

By afternoon, city police reported few problems in celebrations throughout Downtown and the South Side, with at least one arrest.

“This has always been the formal kickoff of every campaign in Pittsburgh,” said city Councilman Bill Peduto of Point Breeze, with dozens of supporters carrying signs behind him bearing his name and the names of city neighborhoods as he walked the parade route.

“The St. Patrick's Day parade is Pittsburgh. It's an opportunity for campaigns to show their grass-roots support, the people's support.”

Luke Ravenstahl, who's not running for re-election and was making his last parade appearance as Pittsburgh mayor, said he still hasn't decided whether to back any candidate.

“Not at this point,” said Ravenstahl of Summer Hill. “I still want to see how the race plays out.”

City Council President Darlene Harris, riding in a horse-drawn carriage, said she wasn't making an appearance as a mayoral candidate.

“It's for the Irish today,” Harris said. “We're all Irish.”

“It's not about the campaign today,” Controller Michael Lamb, of Mt. Washington, also running for the Democratic nod in the May 21 primary. “It's about celebrating our Irish heritage and what makes Pittsburgh great.”

Former Attorney General Jack Wagner, who announced he's running for the Democratic nomination after Ravenstahl withdrew, made a low-key appearance, walking with members of the Allegheny County sheriff's department.

At one point, Peduto walked over to Wagner, who stood by the reviewing stand, and the pair shook hands.

“I'm saying ‘Hi' to a lot of people and celebrating St. Patrick's Day,” said Wagner of Beechview.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley of the Hill and Abdula Jamal Richardson of Sheraden also are in the running for the Democratic nomination for mayor. Wheatley said he could not attend the parade because of a prior commitment. Richardson said he did not attend because of family commitments.

Joshua Wander is running unopposed for the Republican nomination, said after the newspaper's deadline that he did not attend because his religion does not allow him to attend Saturday events..

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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