History of Hilton Head Island’s St. Patrick’s Day parade

History of Hilton Head Island's St. Patrick's Day parade

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - With the thousands of spectators and dozens of floats today, it's hard to imagine that the Hilton head Island St. Patrick's Day Parade wasn't nothing more than a whimsical idea more than 30 years ago. Now that small community event has turned into a regional celebration.

Thousands of people screamed, waved and cheered as of the floats cruised down Pope Avenue. But 33 years ago, the festive scene was a little different.

"We decided to start a parade on a rainy Sunday morning," said parade founder Tom Reilley "We had about 30 people in the parade we almost got arrested. The radio stations picked up on it and the rest is history."

Reilley used a little Irish luck to get the parade going and since that very first year, local businesses are getting their share of the pot of gold.

"St. Patrick's Day is our biggest day of the year. The parade is our second busiest day of the year."

Even Reilley's son Brendan is amazed at the growth of the parade.

"For me growing up, when it started we used to ride the floats, throw candy," Brendan said. "There was a couple hundred people out there. Now you got thirty-something thousand, so it's quite a big difference."

It just goes to show that with a little motivation, anything is possible.

"He said to me, 'Tom, there is no saint Patrick's day parade on Hilton head,'" Tom said. "He said 'If you start one, you'll never believe how far it will go.' And I didn't believe him, but I believe him now."

There were 120 entries this year including the dozens of floats, personal luxury vehicles and several people walking with their furry companions.

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