Spanish Springs was a sea of green Friday afternoon as thousands of revelers descended on The Villages’ oldest town square to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
The parade and Irish festival is traditionally one of the biggest events on the entertainment calendar in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown, and the perfect spring weather ensured a huge turnout. There was traditional Irish music, a fleet of food trucks and, of course, plenty of adult beverages. Guinness beer and Jameson Irish Whiskey were especially popular choices.
Village of Glenview residents Bill and Gloria Nolan have attended the parade most of their 22 years in The Villages. Bill is part of the Sunshine Strollers musical group, which was one of the afternoon’s performers. Others included the Bag Pipers, Clown Alley #179, Pacific Paradise Dancers, Prime Time Twirlers, Sounds of Scotland, Stilt Walkers, and The Villages Cheerleaders. The headliner was The Byrne Brothers, a family act straight from Dublin.
The Nolans, who brought their grandson, Easton, attend most of the festivals, but Bill said St. Patrick’s Day is special because he gets to celebrate his Irish heritage. As for his wife: “She’s German, but today she’s Irish,” he said. “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”
Tina Dewees and her 96-year-old mother, Edith Szwajkowski, live in the Village of Country Club Hills. They joined other members of the Lions Club in the parade and averted disaster at the end, as their golf cart broke down right before the finish line.
“They were able to pull us in, so everything was fine,” said Dewees. “It was a lot of fun. It was our first time actually in the parade. It was great seeing everybody. There were a lot of people.”