It's that time of year when nearly everything in Savannah turns green, just in time for St. Patrick's Day.
The excitement level builds as preparations get under way for Savannah's biggest party of the year. With St. Patrick's Day falling on Monday, this year's festivities will cover four days of fun.
Everyone is ready to celebrate St. Patrick's Day at City Market and on River Street, where thousands will gather to listen to bands, eat and drink.
There will be entertainment galore, with food, drink and live music at five stages in City Market, including the Miller Fortune Stage, Southern Eagle Stage, Budweiser Stage, Wild Wings Stage and Yuengling Stage.
The 2014 festival on River Street will take place from 4 p.m. to midnight March 14; 10 a.m. to midnight March 15; 11 a.m. to midnight March 16; and 8 a.m. to midnight on St. Patrick's Day.
Carrie Bligh, senior director of operations of the Savannah Waterfront Association, says there will be some new attractions in addition to the old favorites.
"We have a festival area that stretches out from the parking lot west of the Hyatt through the parking lot across from the Cotton Exchange," Bligh says. "We'll have two stages and three to four experience areas."
The Southern Eagles Stage will be in front of Kevin Barry's, while the Miller Fortune Stage will be placed on a barge across from Tubby's.
"We'll have some interactive artists, some food and beverages," Bligh says.
The Miller Fortune ROCK Lounge will be on the Arbor Stage at Rousakis Plaza. It will feature a phone charging station and giveaways.
"You can enter to win a chance to be in the VIP lounge to watch the headlining bands," Bligh says.
One of the highlights will be the Lucky Buddha Lounge. Just follow the "Path to Enlightenment" - a row of green lights that will line the Abercorn Street Ramp - for giveaways, cornhole games, a photo booth, DJ and Lucky Buddha beer.
"It's not just a bar in a parking lot," Bligh says. "They're doing a lot of interactive things, with a lot of giveaways and some fun interactive things going on.
"There will be port-a-johns on each end of the street," she says. "There will be plenty of wristband booths."
Bligh has some sage advice for festivalgoers.
"Wear appropriate shoes," she says. "We have cobblestones on River Street, so wear good shoes.
"Just remember: It's a marathon, not a sprint," Bligh says. "You've got all weekend, so there's no need to overindulge. We want people to come down and have a good time, but maintain some order."
Admission is free, but folks who want to drink must have a wristband, which costs $5 per day, and an ID. They will be available at 24 locations downtown.
For information on festival hours, wristband sales locations and a full band schedule, go to www.savannahnow.com/stpatricksday.
In Savannah, there's a celebration of all things Irish that's suitable for the whole family.
The 23rd annual Tara Feis Irish Celebration will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 15 at Emmet Park on the east end of Bay Street.
Sponsored by the city, Tara Feis is free to everyone. It will open with a traditional Irish ceremony featuring parade Grand Marshal Dave Roberts and local dignitaries in a procession of colorful flags and bagpipes.
Live performances, food, crafts, rides and games will be available, with Celtic music performer Harry O'Donoghue emceeing the main stage. He also will perform, including a set with local vocalist Cc Witt and fiddler Coleen Settle. Others performing on the main stage include the Irish Dancers of Savannah and the Glor na Daire Academy of Irish Dance. Headlining this year is the McLean Avenue Band.
Each band member is an Ireland Champion: Padraig Allen on guitar and lead vocals; Kevin McHugh on drums, vocals and uillean pipes; Jessica Semins on fiddle and vocals; and Greg Gruber on keyboards and vocals.
The Tara Feis children's stage will feature puppeteer Conrad Hartz, magician Magic Marc Dunston, interactive music and stories with Jamie and Laura Keena and the Irish step dancers.
Tara Feis Planning Committee chairwoman Bernadette Winters anticipates a larger audience than usual because the festival is two days before the parade.
"This gives visitors and local folks alike the chance to enjoy our beautiful Emmet Park, hear some authentic Irish music, see some beautiful Irish step dancing, as well as offering arts and crafts for the children," she says. "It will be a wonderful event for families to attend, since it is a non-alcoholic festival, and being sponsored by the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, all this at no cost. We are so grateful to the mayor, aldermen and the Cultural Affairs Commission for providing this wonderful event."
ST. PATRICK'S DAY PARADE
As many as 600,000 people are expected to attend the 190th St. Patrick's Day Parade in Savannah.
Considered the second largest parade in the world, the parade is outranked only by New York City's parade, and that fact is debated by plenty of locals who insist we're No. 1. The celebration is religious as well as cultural, with Mass held on the morning of the parade at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Lafayette Square.
Kevin Halligan, chairman of the 2014 St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee, says this year's parade won't be much different than last year's.
"It will have pretty much the same makeup," he says. "There will be different units, different bands, but overall, the makeup is the same."
Some old favorites will return, of course.
"We'll have Virginia Tech and the Virginia Military Institute Band and Pipe Corps," Halligan says. "The Irish Air Corps has become a fixture in the parade."
But there will be one notable absence.
"We don't have the Budweiser Clydesdales, but we will have the Express Clydesdales," Halligan says. "And the Wells Fargo stagecoach is coming."
As many as 750,000 people turn out for the parade when it falls on Saturday, Halligan says.
"My favorite part of the parade is the family friendly atmosphere you see all the children and families enjoying," he says. "I enjoy seeing the parade come down the street and realize all the hard work that goes into it all year long and what it means.
"I'm just looking forward to it," Halligan says. "Our parade is second to none and I'm looking forward to it. Everyone will enjoy it."