10 Festive St. Patrick's Day Parades

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ST. PATRICK'S DAY PARADES

The St. Patrick's Day parade originated not in Ireland but in America. New York City lays claim to the first one, in 1762. Soon after, the annual celebration spread to other cities with large populations of Irish immigrants, including Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. The parades, which commemorate the St. Patrick's Day holiday each March 17, are now an annual rite of spring in many U.S. cities, and 2016 promises numerous festive celebrations. Here are 10 cities that throw some of the best St. Patrick's Day parades around.

BOSTON

Beantown is one of the first cities to come to mind when Americans think about St. Patrick's Day -- and for good reason. More than 100,000 residents with Irish heritage call Boston home. So it's no wonder the city goes all out for its St. Paddy's Day parade. This year, the parade will be held on March 20 and feature, food, music, and, of course, many Irish-themed floats.

CHICAGO

Chicago's annual St. Patrick's Day parade features marching bands, floats, and a St. Patrick's Day queen to represent the Irish community. But the annual celebration is perhaps best known for the dyeing of the Chicago River, which is turned a brilliant green "identical to the greens of Ireland." Always held on a Saturday, Chicago's St. Patrick Day will be celebrated March 12. The parade, sponsored by Chicago Plumbers Local 130, got its start in 1955.

CLEVELAND

Cleveland knows how to throw an excellent St. Paddy's Day bash. The 2016 parade will be held on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, and is one of the oldest parade celebrations in the state of Ohio. The parade's Facebook page says that spectators can expect to enjoy floats, music, costumes, and other festive entertainment from 10,000 parade participants. That's no small potatoes.

MADISON, WISCONSIN

Madison puts on a great show of Irish pride each St. Patrick's Day, including a traditional parade featuring festive floats and marching bands. There are also several contests for best costume (including pets), largest "clan," reddest hair, and more. Festivities start March 13 at 10 a.m. with a friendly Shamrock Shuffle race, leading up to the main event at 1:30 p.m. Proceeds benefit several local charities.

SOUTH FLORIDA

Celebrate Irish pride Florida-style in Delray Beach, which plays host to the annual South Florida parade on March 12. This year, World War II veterans will lead the parade, and the theme, as it has been for the last six years, will be dedicated to emergency responders. The parade's organizers also collect donations for nonprofit organizations associated with the event, veterans, firefighters, and other first responders.

MINNEAPOLIS

Late winter can be a tricky time to plan outdoor events in Minnesota, but the forecast this year calls for relatively mild weather on March 17, the date Minneapolis holds its St. Patrick's Day parade. The annual celebration dates back to 1969 and raises money for the American Diabetes Association through the sale of parade buttons and beads. Related events include the annual Ms. Blarney contest and a Wee Leprechauns dress-up contest for kids 2 to 7.

NEW YORK

New York City is known for throwing grand parades, and the celebration for St. Patrick's Day is no exception. New York's parade, which bills itself as the "oldest, biggest, and best in the world," will be held March 17 on Fifth Avenue. Those eager to get into the Irish spirit can go all out by buying official gear online. Proceeds from the sales of merchandise go to support the nonprofit organization that sponsors the annual festivity.

PHILADELPHIA

Philadelphia's famed parade will be held March 13 and air on live local TV for the first time in its history (so even if you can't make it outside, you can still enjoy the fun). Philadelphia's celebration is nearly as old as New York's, dating back to 1771. The parade is both a cultural and religious celebration, and features a commemorative mass that starts at 9:15 a.m., prior to the parade's start at noon.

PITTSBURGH

Pittsburgh's annual celebration of Irish pride dates back to at least 1869. The 2016 St. Patrick's Day parade, to be held Saturday, March 12, will showcase floats, marching bands, and awards for the best and most creative floats. The event also features the winner of the annual Miss Smiling Irish Eyes contest along with her court. To be eligible, contestants must be "a single woman between the ages of 17 and 22, of Irish birth or descent, of good moral character, and an active promoter of her Irish ancestry."

PORTLAND, OREGON

Portland has a reputation for being edgy and off the beaten path, but that doesn't mean Portlanders don't engage in some traditional celebrations for St. Patrick's Day. Portland's parade will be held on March 17, but the city has several days of fun planned to coincide with the celebration. From scavenger hunts to traditional music and dancing, Portland is offering a ton of celebratory fun for St. Patrick's Day weekend.