NAPLES, Fla. — Naples is seeing green thanks to the return of an annual tradition.
St. Patrick’s Day may still be days away, but the city hosted its annual St. Patrick’s Parade with plenty throughout the community turning out for the festivities. Floats, bands and a whole lot of green to celebrate this year's St. Patrick's Day. To kick-start the special occasion, a flag raising ceremony took place in Crayton Cove.
"It’s just great to be back out here celebrating our Irish heritage and having a good time,” said Michael O'Regan, Co-Grand Marshall.
A sea of green gathered in the streets of Naples, all in the name of St. Patrick. It’s all to do with celebrating Irish heritage in SWFL.
“Being Irish, you kind of have to be out here today," said O'Regan. "If you’re not here today, forget about it.”
And what would a parade dedicated to St. Patrick be without the patron saint himself? Helping lead the festivities was none other than the people’s choice St. Patrick- Patrick McDonagh.
"People vote you in and vote you out," he says. "I’ve been lucky enough to be nominated for the last 10 years so I’m very happy about it.”
Also in attendance— the Women of Irish Heritage of Southwest Florida.
"We started this group back in 2020 and then Covid hit," says Cyndi Hawkins, a member of the group. "Now, we are a 30 member strong group and trying to grow our group. We’re so happy to be here and walking in this first parade.”
The parade dates back a little more than 40 years. With each passing year, it seems to grow larger and larger. Proceeds go toward local high school bands and scholarships.
"They do such great work for our community so to be part of that in any simple way and to help them, that’s what life is all about- the gift of giving," said O'Regan. "They provide scholarships for local kids going to school, like all of my kids who were born and raised here and went to school here. We love to support them.”
But no matter the reason for coming out to the parade, the sentiment remains the same…
"It’s just the luck of the Irish," said Mary Joe O’Regan. "You feel so honored and proud to be here. The American people have embraced us like I could have never imagined and just so proud to call Naples and Marco Island our second home.”
"Sláinte for the drinkers, happy St. Patrick’s day for most of us that like to talk to everybody," says McDonagh. "And there are a few more but some of them are not for TV.”
You can find more information about the day's festivities online right here.