What's the first sign of springtime on Hilton Head Island? It's when everything turns green. And we mean everything.
Some 30,000 of your neighbors, friends and tourists will be decked out in green and bedazzled with beads March 11 on Pope Avenue for the Hilton Head Island St. Patrick's Day Parade.
This year, South Carolina's oldest St. Patrick's Day parade celebrates its 35th anniversary, along with its birthplace, Reilley's Grill & Bar, and Hilton Head Island's incorporation as a township.
As a cherry on top of the celebrations, Tom Reilley, founder of both Reilley's and the Parade, was honored with the John Curry Tourism Award at the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber Ball in January.
So there is plenty to celebrate, and parade organizers are pulling out all the stops for what promises to be the island's biggest St. Patrick's Day Parade in recent memory. Five bagpipe bands from as far away as New Jersey and Boston will join more than 40 floats, marching groups and marching bands.
Featured guests include some familiar faces like the Express Clydesdales from Oklahoma, local fire and rescue companies, the Parris Island Marine Corps Band, Oscar Mayer's Wienermobile. Newcomers include the Stardust Pixxies, a circus arts performance troupe from Savannah, the Big Idaho Potato Truck and the oven used to cook the World's Largest Meatball at Hilton Head Island's Italian Heritage Festival.
Dr. Emory Shaw Campbell will lead the way as Grand Marshal, a position that is filled each year by someone who has shown commitment to the betterment of the community. Born and raised on Hilton Head Island, Dr. Campbell has long been an advocate for public health access for the poor and for the preservation of traditional Lowcountry communities and culture.
While serving as director of the Penn Center on St. Helena Island (1980-2002), Dr. Campbell traveled to Sierra Leone in Africa to establish connections there with the Gullah people of the South Carolina Lowcountry. He also contributed to a Gullah language translation of the New Testament.
Today, he heads Gullah Heritage Consulting Services, helping individuals, organizations, groups, journalists and scholars learn more about Gullah Cultural Heritage.
The 35th annual Hilton Head Island St. Patrick's Day Parade steps off from Coligny Beach parking lot March 11 at 3 p.m., rain or shine. To join the parade, volunteer or become a sponsor, visit HiltonHeadIreland.org.