Image: Pat Williams watches parade
Tina Fineberg  /  AP
Pat Williams, of Middlesex, New Jersey, foreground left, reacts as she and others watch the St. Patrick's Day parade as it makes it's way up New York's Fifth Avenue, Tuesday, March 17.
updated 3/17/2009 7:19:07 PM ET 2009-03-17T23:19:07

St. Patrick's Day revelers took a break from worries about the global economy to enjoy a day of shamrock-themed frivolity, dyeing city fountains green, taking icy ocean plunges and crowding sidewalks along parade routes to see and be seen.

Organizers predicted 200,000 participants — and at least as many spectators — would line New York's Fifth Avenue for the city's 248th annual march.

Holly Lopez, a nurse from Buffalo, stood in the dozen-deep Manhattan crowd wearing a temporary shamrock tattoo, green feather necklace, an Irish flag in her cleavage and — she said — green underwear.

She was part of a group of women who have attended for 20 years, "except for pregnancies," said Pam Dempsey.

"We were here before we met our husbands and we'll be here until we're dead," said Lopez's friend, Lucy Hoffman.

Over-the-top Irish
One of the woman held up a sign thanking soldiers. Another sign read: "Is it cold under those kilts?"

Earlier in the day at his Manhattan pub, Ciaran Staunton served up an over-the-top Irish breakfast — sausages, bacon, black and white pudding, home fries, fried tomatoes, and baked beans.

Even with all the revelry, the Ireland native said his thoughts drifted to his nephews back home — an unemployed carpenter, bricklayer and electrician who helped push Ireland's jobless rate past 10 percent.

"The economy's in shreds in Ireland," said the 45-year-old pub owner. "People are being laid off as we speak."

Video: Web only: Who was St. Patrick? Ken and Mary Ferguson, of Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, were on vacation in New York and reflected on the economy as they watched the marchers pass by on Fifth Avenue.

Ken Ferguson, a truck driver, said his work week had been cut to four days.

But on Tuesday they were soaking in the St. Patrick's Day spectacle.

"It's bigger and better than in Ireland," Ken Ferguson said of the parade.

In Los Angeles, a Roman Catholic priest celebrated St. Patrick's Day by giving away some green.

Priest hands out bills
Father Maurice Chase went to Skid Row with a wallet packed with $20 bills to give to some of the city's neediest residents. More than 300 people lined up for cash.

Cities and towns around the nation honored Ireland with their own signature celebrations.

In Portland, Maine, 75 people greeted the day with an icy plunge in the Atlantic Ocean, charging into the 37-degree water and celebrating with a Guinness afterward.

Before dawn in Indianapolis, dye was poured into the city's downtown canal, triggering a fountain of green water before the city's parade. Fountains at the White House in Washington also ran green for the day.

And in Savannah, Ga., masses of revelers clad head-to-toe in green crammed sidewalks and oak-shaded squares for the best parade view.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg summed up the spirit of the day.

"I can't think of any better time for a parade, when some people are distressed and some people are disappointed and some people are depressed," he said. "People need a pick-me-up, people need to know that we can get through this together."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Green day for St. Paddy

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  1. Journeymen plumbers dye the Chicago River green to mark the start of St. Patrick's Day celebrations on Saturday, March 14. (Jeff Haynes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. President Barack Obama and Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen on the steps of the Capitol in Washington after a St. Patrick's Day event on Tuesday. At left are Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Ceilida Sanders, left, of Savannah, Ga., reacts to a float in the city's parade on Tuesday. The coastal city has celebrated St. Patrick's Day since 1824, and the parade draws a crowd of up to 400,000. (Stephen Morton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Britain's Princess Anne with members of the Sergeant's Mess of the 1st Battalion Irish Guard during a parade at Victoria Barracks, Windsor, England, on Tuesday. The princess presented traditional sprigs of shamrock to the guardsmen. (Cpl Gabriel Moreno / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Nicole Eaton, of Galloway, N.J., participates in a parade on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., on Saturday. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Dressed as a leprechaun, Tedi Valentine of Cape Coral, Fla., greets Boston Red Sox players before their spring training baseball game against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla. The Red Sox wore green uniforms to celebrate Tuesday. (Charles Krupa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A New York state police bagpiper during the 248th St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York on Tuesday. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A dog named Shamrock dressed for the festivities in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday. Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin urged the island's 4 million Catholics to pray for an end to Irish Republican Army dissident attacks that have claimed three lives this month in the British territory. (Peter Morrison / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. The fountain on the north side of the White House gets into the act on Tuesday. (Karen Bleier / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A participant in the "Paddy's Day Plunge" celebrates in Portland, Maine. About 75 people jumped into the chilly water at 5:30 a.m. to raise money for the Portland Firefighters Children's Burn Unit. (Robert F. Bukaty / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. From left, competitive eaters Tim Janus, Pat Bertoletti, Joey Chestnut and Juliet Lee face off in the first-ever Stroehmann Sandwich Slamm, featuring corned beef and rye sandwiches on Monday in New York City. Winner Bertoletti consumed 16 3/4 sandwiches in 10 minutes. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. U.S. soldiers run as they take part in a 5 km running competition during a celebration of St. Patrick’s Day which was organized by the MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) and U.S. soldiers in the International Zone in Baghdad on Tuesday. (Saad Shalash / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A boy celebrates in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday. (Peter Muhly / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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