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With green and glee, major US parades mark St. Patrick's Day — a little early

NEW YORK (AP) — People across the United States celebrated Irish heritage at several major St. Patrick's Day parades Saturday, marking the holiday a day early at events that included a big anniversary in Savannah, Georgia, and honored a pioneering female business leader as grand marshal in New York.

The holiday commemorates Ireland's patron saint and was popularized largely by Irish Catholic immigrants. While St. Patrick's Day falls on March 17, some parades were moved up from Sunday, a day of worship for the Christian faithful.

Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day Parade, which dates to 1762 — 14 years before the U.S. Declaration of Independence — is one of the world’s largest Irish heritage festivities.

Megan Stransky of Houston and two relatives planned a Broadway weekend to coincide with the parade, seeing it as a prime opportunity to remember their family's Irish roots and the traditions that helped shape their upbringing.

The event didn't disappoint.

“There is no comparison to any other parade or city that I’ve been to,” Stransky marveled as she took in the bagpipers, bands, police and military contingents and more.

The grand marshal, Irish-born Heineken USA CEO Maggie Timoney, is the first female CEO of a major U.S. beer company. At a pre-parade reception at New York’s mayoral residence, Irish Minister for Justice Helen McEntee hailed the recognition for Timoney and noted some other causes for celebrating Irish American links this year, including Irish actor Cillian Murphy’s best actor Oscar win last weekend.

New York City has multiple parades on various dates around its five boroughs — including, on Sunday, the first St. Patrick's Day parade allowing LGBTQ+ groups to march on Staten Island.

Mayor Eric Adams last month announced the plan for the new, privately organized celebration, arranged after a local organization asked for years to join the borough's decades-old parade. That longstanding event, which does not allow groups to march under LGBTQ+ banners, happened earlier this month.

The Manhattan parade began allowing LGBTQ+ groups and symbols in 2015, after decades of protests, legal challenges and boycotts by some politicians.

Ahead of Chicago's parade, thousands of people — many decked out in green with beers in hand — gathered along the Chicago River to watch the local plumbers union boats turn the water green. Organizers say the tradition, started by the union, uses an environmentally friendly powder once used to check pipes for leaks.

Katie and Ryan Fox, of suburban Mount Pleasant, landed a spot on a tour boat and saw one of the union boats spraying the dye in front of them.

Ryan Fox, 37, said seeing the river dyed by boat was one of his “bucket list” items.

“If there’s a city that does it better than Chicago, I’d like to see it,” he said.

Large, green-garbed crowds also lined the streets of Savannah for the bicentennial of a parade that began with a few dozen Irish immigrants in 1824. It's now one of the South's major annual events, much so that the Savannah area had nearly 18,000 hotel rooms booked for the weekend.

Other communities lent their own flavor to the St. Patrick's Day revelry.

In Oklahoma City, hundreds lined the streets of Stockyard City — the country's largest stockyard operation — for a parade including longhorn cattle, clowns and a man dressed as St. Patrick. The grand marshal was Anita Swift, granddaughter of American film legend John Wayne.

In San Francisco, revelers wearing dark green T-shirts and lime green feather boas watched bands, floats and buses in the city's annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. The event called for unity and aimed to bring together different cultural groups with dance, music and food.

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This story has been corrected to show that Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day Parade began allowing LGBTQ+ groups to march under their own banners in 2015, not 2014, and that the new Staten Island parade allowing such contingents is set to happen Sunday, rather than having happened in February. The story has been edited to clarify that Timoney is USA CEO for Heineken.