Kansas City, Mo. Kansas Citians of every color turned downtown green on Saturday, for the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade an event participants and watchers say is as much about being from here as it is about being Irish.
"This is the most unifying parade Kansas City's got," said Scott Eckard of Kansas City, decked out in a green bowler, jacket and knee breeches. "Everybody has a good time. On March 17, everybody's Irish."
To be Irish really Irish and see Kansas City embrace St. Patrick's Day is especially gratifying, restaurant manager Colm Delahunt, who emigrated from Dublin 11 years ago, said.
"It makes us, makes me feel very proud to be Irish," Delahunt said. "These people here, it's great that they're doing this."
The crowds lining the two-mile parade route in Kansas City, Mo., cheered loudly for the troupes of Irish step dancers, the floats assembled by Kansas City's Irish families, and the marchers from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Daughters of Erin.
But they were just as enthusiastic in their support of the drill teams made up almost entirely of black children and teen-agers.
"It's a citywide thing that just brings everybody out, to get together and enjoy each other without all of the other pressures of daily life," said Vickie Harris, director of the Touch of Class drill team from Kansas City, Kan.
"The drill teams are a big part of the parade," said Harris, who walked the route along with her team. "Over the years, they've done a lot to get drill teams into it. You can only see so many cars, so many horses. This kind of keeps the crowd into the parade."
Those who didn't show up early had a hard time getting curbside seats.
Some climbed statues, bridge railings even portable bathrooms while others relied on narration.
"What's going on up there?" Kent Bumgarner asked his 6-year-old son, Jacob, who was riding on his shoulders.
"There's a truck that makes coffee and a guy in a big elf hat," Jacob said as a float sponsored by a local coffee company rolled by.
The festive atmosphere was broken only once, when the Irish Northern Aid society marched by with a banner reading "England Get Out of Ireland."
The society's presence in the parade was appropriate, Delahunt said.
"I think they should definitely be in there. They have an Irish heritage, too," he said. "I think anything that's connected to Ireland should be in the parade."