From emerald shirts to green mustaches, thousands of would-be-Irish painted downtown Topeka like a shamrock Saturday while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
The day was packed with events, from Mass and breakfast at Mater Dei Assumption Church to the Great Topeka Bed Race and an Irish whiskey tasting, as well as live music and a 5K race. Vince Frye, president and CEO of Downtown Topeka Inc., said Friday organizers expected a crowd close to 30,000 people, but a cool, brisk wind may have kept many inside. With events stretching from the church at S.W. 10th and Clay around the Capitol and along S. Kansas Avenue, an exact crowd estimate wasn’t possible.
Chilled revelers sought hot chocolate at Hazel Hill Chocolate. One employee said business remained steady throughout the day, with as many as 20 people at a time packing into the small shop.
Down the street at The Pennant, 915 S. Kansas Ave., a manager at the door said the newly open business had reached capacity just before the parade began. A short line built up outside for much of the event.
Despite the colder than expected temperatures — the high temperature barely reached the mid-40s though the forecast called for a high of 55 — the crowd may have been one of the largest in recent years.
Parade master Mark Sweeney expected about 125 floats for the 39th annual parade, but more than 250 floats and dozens of walkers filed along S. Kansas Avenue to S.W. 10th and then around the Capitol, making it one of the longest parades to date.
“For the weather we had, with the cloudy skies and the wind, it was one of the best years,” Sweeney said.