SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - With just eight days until the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Savannah is going green!
Friday, the fountain in Forsyth Park was dyed green during a special ceremony. Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Grand Marshal, Jerry Counihan, poured in the dye with help from WTOC Coloring Contest grand prize winner, Maddie Davis.
The Greening of the Fountain has become one of Savannah’s most anticipated events to kick off the St. Patrick’s Day week of festivities. It’s also one of the events of the season that is most about Savannah.
It was going to warm up in Savannah Friday no matter what the temperature did - a familiar feeling created more by the season than the sun.
“It’s just such a fun event to bring the kids to. We had a really good time,” said Jessie Hampton.
The Greening of the Fountain in Forsyth Park is not the first event of Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day marathon - it’s just the one that best sets the tone for, what is at its core, a down-home, local event, showing that even with the hundreds of thousands of people expected to come to town next weekend, the celebration still matters most to those who are already here.
“There are a lot of kickoffs. We’re a week away now. It’s a milestone,” said Fred Elmgren, Emcee, Greening of the Fountain.
“It’s such a beautiful backdrop, right? It couldn’t be better,” said Jennifer Fleming.
That’s always the case with an event that is as quintessentially Savannah as the site where it is held. It’s folks stopping by the park on their lunch break, and young kids getting to skip a few hours of school, and Savannah’s most important Irishman every March presiding over the whole thing.
“I love family, and I love any theme that has family involved. Heritage, faith, God and country, and today we saw a lot of families come out with their children,” Counihan said.
The ceremony brought warm feelings for others too - even those without a personal connection.
“When they get the kids incorporated in on it, it makes it that much more special, and this year, when the little kids were singing, that was just so beautiful. I loved it,” said Evelyn New, from Chattanooga, TN.
“I wasn’t born Catholic, but I love the Catholic faith,” said Jeannette Grayson. “They are all just a big family and it’s just a beautiful occasion where all the family gets together, and to see the Greening of the Fountain in Savannah is just beautiful, and I just love it here."
“It’s more family-oriented for sure,” said Stephanie Hoey. “We set up a picnic, and she loves to see the fountain turn green.”
The Grand Marshal got to do the honors of pouring the first container of green dye into the fountain. He says he wants to make this year all about family because that’s how this all started for him.
“My father was Grand Marshal in 1988, and we participated in the Greening of the Fountain in 1988. It’s just brought back good memories,” he said.
WTOC Coloring Contest winner Maddie Davis got to pour the second container of green dye into the fountain. This was her first time attending, but she plans to make it an annual event for her and her family.
“It was really fun, and I’m really glad that my friends came to see me pour the green dye into the fountain," Davis said.
The Grand Marshal says this is just one of the events he’s excited for, and he is honored to have this opportunity.
“It’s hard to express in words, but it’s a great honor and I feel very blessed.”
There will be similar events in the coming days, including the reinvented Tara Feis and Celtic Cross ceremony, when the focus is not on claiming Savannah has the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration - but that it really is just a big small town event.
“It means it’s officially St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah.”
That happens when a little more green arrives in the city every year.
Friday’s crowd in Forsyth Park was one of the largest in memory for the Greening of the Fountain.
Watch the live stream below: