Families continue ‘Running of the Squares’ tradition

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 10:16 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Before the St. Patrick’s Day Parade steps off, groups of families and friends claim their spot in the squares.

The “Running of the Squares” tradition is something families have been doing for decades to make sure they get the same spot. Rain or shine, Rick Parrish and his family are set up before the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Lafayette Square.

“It’s a time we get together with family and friends from all over,” Parrish said.

The tradition started nearly 50 years with Rick’s first wife who lived just down the street.

“Then in the 90s, I started coming over here to give everyone a spot in the square when they moved and it gave somebody a place to go downtown and it grew from there,” Parrish said.

Now, there is a group of eight families that set up in the same spot.

“As the rules changed and everything was different, we had to modify and adapt and it’s developed into what it is now,” Parrish said.

There are three generations of Parrishs who gather in the square, including Rick’s daughter Kristen, who has been there every year since she was two weeks old.

“I guess it is a little bit of an adrenaline rush, getting out here, getting our spot, the tradition of it.”

The city officially opens the squares at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day.

“You jump or you run around the barricades and somebody hands over the canopy, you set up the canopy as quickly as possible, if you can have four people at each end that is perfect, you pop it up and then you start handing over coolers and tables and chairs.”

With the same game plan one square over is the Jernigan family.

“Our kids do love it, but we love it too.”

Cristin has been doing this tradition for more than 40 years and her husband joined in about 15 years ago.

“She’s like you got to understand it is crazy, I was like it’s fine, she is like no you have to understand, you got to pace yourself and I’m like okay and at 10:30 I was like I need to pace myself.”

It might sound crazy to onlookers, but these families wouldn’t change a thing.

“It’s just celebrating our heritage, our faith, being with our family, friends, the community, and just the beauty of Savannah.”

Even though some families have been at it for decades, they always welcome newcomers.

“We can make room for new people to come in because they are not strangers, they are just friends we haven’t met yet.”

Even though Rick isn’t able to jump the fence anymore, there is no way he will ever miss the running of the squares.

“I want to be here, yes in a wheelchair, I can see you pushing me around but push me around and let me enjoy it because it’s an amazing time.”