PORTLAND – Ray Leahy of Vassalboro said his St. Patrick costume, complete with the legendary banished snakes and a Bible, definitely paid off Saturday.

Standing outside the Brian Boru Public House, Leahy drew a crowd of admirers.

“I am getting a lot of free beers and shots,” said Leahy.

Leahy and more than a dozen friends set out from Waterville at 4 a.m. to line up outside one of Portland’s Irish bars, many of which opened their doors at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day. Leahy’s contingent joined the hordes who descended on the city to celebrate the annual tribute to Ireland’s most famous patron saint and all things Irish.

With the holiday falling on a Saturday this year, and dawning with sunny skies and temperatures that climbed well into the 50s, the Irish American Club of Maine’s St. Patrick’s Parade drew hundreds of spectators.

Commercial Street turned into a sea of green as people lined the parade route to watch marching bagpipe bands, dancers from the Stillson School of Irish Dance, Girl Scouts troops, color guards, the Portland Hurling Club players and a long line of fire engines and rescue vehicles.

“It’s the old pride of the Irish, which my father instilled in me. And I am sure there will be Guinness involved,” said Adrienne Cronin Poley of Portland, who watched the parade with her children and grandchildren.

Sean O’Neil of Scarborough was dressed in a green shirt, sweater and suit coat decorated with a green carnation.

“It’s a holiday, really. I’ve got to have corned beef and cabbage,” said O’Neil.

Joe Carion stood waiting for the parade in a fuzzy green hat crowned by a mug of beer, next to his wife, Marybeth, in an equally eye-popping topper. Their teenagers Jenny 14, and Tim, 13, and friend, Graham Shalow, 14, swore the adults did not make them embarrassed.

“I really can’t talk,” said Jenny, pointing to her own glowing green bowler.

Irish native Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, delivered an address at the parade’s concluding ceremony after being escorted in the parade by Riley, a 3-year-old Irish setter.

“He did great. I was very impressed,” said Riley’s owner, Dan Riley of Kennebunk.

By 11 a.m. a long line with a three-hour wait snaked around Ri Ra, an Irish pub on Commercial Street where it was standing-room-only as a bagpipe band blared, making conversation impossible.

“This is nothing yet. I love it,” shouted Chris Oliver, the bouncer.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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