Tens of thousands on hand for St. Patrick's Day parade Downtown

| Saturday, March 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Catching candy and beads thrown from floats, tens of thousands of green-clad revelers jammed Downtown streets as the annual St. Patrick's Day parade stepped off in Pittsburgh this morning.

The parade is expected to last until about noon, though rolling street closures and bus detours could continue some time afterwards.

At establishments in and around the city, the green beer is chilled and police are on patrol.

"It's controlled chaos," said Rick Faust, manager of the Original Oyster House in Market Square. "We're quite happy with the chaos."

Event organizers said the usual crowds number between 150,000 and 200,000 people each year for the parade through Downtown.

There have been problems during past celebrations, including drunken brawls in Market Square.

Last year, police arrested a man who threatened to dress in a gorilla suit and shoot parade spectators. Police said they made several dozen other arrests and issued citations for offenses such as resisting arrest, public intoxication and open container violations.

Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard would not say how many officers are on patrol, or if there will be an increased presence from past years. She said police and Liquor Control Enforcement agents will be in the South Side and Market Square ,and police will patrol the North Shore.

"The drinking and other things start early," Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss said. "We want to be out there."

To avoid problems in Market Square, the city established a family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration. It runs until 2 p.m., before the square opens to adult festivities, including street sales of beer from 2 to 5:30 p.m.

The Market Square Association also hires private security to monitor an entrance to the square during the adult celebration, Faust said.

"It's a different crowd, so we treat it a little differently," NOLA Manager Jerry Fink said, adding that a security guard will be at the front door.

Faust said the square can hold between 8,000 and 10,000 people, and usually it's packed.

"You could body surf from the Oyster House over to Primanti Bros., and nobody would probably notice you bouncing over their head," Faust said.

New this year is a free shuttle service between the Second Avenue lot at the 10th Street Bridge and South Side Works from noon Saturday to 4 a.m. Sunday. South Side employees and visitors are urged to park for free at the Second Avenue lot, and shuttles will run every 15 minutes along the East Carson Street corridor.

The Port Authority will detour Downtown and Strip District buses through 2:30 p.m.

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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