Parade Day — the best day of the year

“Best day of the year … better than Christmas!”

That’s Tom Sizemore as he’s getting the crapped kicked out of him by the Hardy clan in Striking Distance. It’s also me when I wake up every year on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day — known throughout the region as Parade Day in Scranton. Notice the deliberate avoidance of saying the actual parade. People don’t go for the parade — they go to bar hop.

It’s known for some NEPA superlatives: Biggest crowd — about 125,000 people in downtown Scranton. Biggest party — every bar in the city packed to the absolute rafters. Most fun — there is nary a sober person in the city after about 2 p.m. since every bar in town opens at 9 a.m. and is packed a half-hour later. So that’s 30 minutes you have of somewhat peace and quiet. Enjoy it. 

parade day is a blast ... as long as you're prepared

parade day is a blast ... as long as you're prepared

But it’s only fun if you’re prepared. There’s a seedy, miserable, boring side to Parade Day. If you’re not careful, it can bite you right in the butt and completely ruin your day. Keep these things in mind whether you’re planning a route or stopping in your 10th bar of the day. I’ve given a lot of these tips before, but it’s worth bringing them up again:

There are no laws in this place! Anything goes! It’s like Thunderdome! It’s one of the first jokes my clan of people — thinned in the last few years for sure from highs of 30 or 40 in the good ol’ days — says to start the day, usually the first time they see something completely weird. So by like 9:15. For the most part, it’s true. Short of cracking someone over the head with a frosty mug, you can do anything you want and you aren’t going to get in trouble. That’s a lot of responsibility for 100,000 drunk people — so try not to abuse it and ruin it for the rest of us, OK? OK.

Bring money. Lots of money. What no one tells you about Parade Day is that it’s crazy-ridiculous expensive. Every bar advertises its specials — $1 drafts! $2 cans! — but they rarely tell you it’s only good from 9 to 10 a.m. After that, you’re paying about $4 for a Budweiser can. And almost every bar has a cover. Actually, every bar BUT ONE has a cover tomorrow. Some new bar where the Ritz Theater used to be on Wyoming Avenue called The City Dump is advertising “absolutely no cover.” That’s the best marketing strategy I’ve seen in years, because as the day goes on and your wallet gets thinner and thinner, it gets increasingly frustrating to pay $10 or even $20 just to walk into a crowded place where you will need to give up your firstborn to get to a bathroom within 45 minutes. That reminds me …

You will never see uglier, dirtier bathrooms in your life than on Parade Day. Ever. Anywhere. In fact, the Hilton has even started advertising how clean they vow to keep their bathrooms all day — another fabulous marketing strategy. Don’t bother complaining about it or telling your friends about the mess you found. Chances are, they can trump you with the mess they found in the bathroom at the last bar you were at. While we’re at it, don’t bother trying to enforce the following bathroom rules that are assumed under normal circumstances, but completely disappear on Parade Day:

–Men goes in men’s bathrooms, women go in women’s bathrooms. That will be broken by 10:30 a.m. and you’re powerless to stop it.

–Cleaning of your own mess is optional. So don’t even bother. It’s a great reason to follow one of the biggest Parade Day rules — where old shoes you don’t care about. Rookies always make the mistake of wearing nice shoes and they’re ruined by about 4 p.m. By noon in every bathroom, you’ll be walking in a puddle of pee.

you never know who might show up -- like david wallace from the office

you never know who might show up -- like david wallace from the office

–Relieve yourself in toilets. Ha! Nope, just go wherever. I’ve seen people pee on the dance floors. Once you get to the bathrooms, it’s over. People go anywhere, and consider it almost a badge of honor to pee in the sink. Which leads me to the joke that comes out every Parade Day and always gets a laugh — “Hey, no peeing in the sink, what do you think this is, The Vet?” Well, it got a lot more laughs five years ago. But as the younger generation comes up and doesn’t even realize there was a thing called Veterans Stadium where people peed in the sink as a general rule, the laughs get quieter and quieter. I need some new Parade Day material.

The beer selections are very, very small. You will basically have a couple choices wherever you go — Yuengling Lager of Miller Lite. That’s it. When you go up to these bartenders who will be working 18-hour shifts tomorrow asking for a Dogfish Head, Bass or Carlsberg, you’re basically taking your life into your own hands. When a bartender asks what you want, there are only two acceptable answers — Lager or Miller Lite. Nothing else, unless you see it staring you in the face and it’s readily available. If you ask for something like a Malibu bay breeze with a splash of lemon juice, there is a good chance you will be punched in the head.

Eat during the day. You’ll get hungry around noon, but you’ll see that Sal’s on Linden Street and Pizza by Pappa’s on North Washington Avenue will have lines out the door. So you’ll cleverly say, “Eh, I’ll just get something at 1.” Then the lines are bigger. So you decide to get something at 2 as you head into The Hardware Bar(formerly Tink’s). Then you start having fun at before you know it, it’s 4, you haven’t eaten since 8 a.m., you haven’t sat down since 11, and you’ve drank 15 beers. Then you’ll start wondering why you can’t stand up. Bite the bullet and find somewhere to eat as soon as you get hungry no matter how long the line is. Brixx normally has a good finger-food Parade Day menu and the service is surprisingly fast. But the bar on North Washington is off the Parade route and has chopped its early morning special by an hour ($1 drafts only from 9-10 now instead of its traditional 9-11).

Have fun. There are about a trillion things that can make Parade Day problematic. Lines, crowds, one-hour bathroom breaks, overpriced beer — it doesn’t end. So realize all these things are bound to happen, stick them in your back pocket and laugh them off when they do happen. It makes Parade Day approximately 1,354 percent more enjoyable.

oh, right, wear green, or you'll stick out like a sore thumb

oh, right, wear green, or you'll stick out like a sore thumb

One last insight — last year was the emptiest I’ve seen the bars since the 90s. Whether it’s the economy, or whether there are just too many bars downtown these days — could be either — I was pleasantly surprised by how easy access was to both bathrooms and bars during the day. So maybe that will keep up and it won’t be as frustrating as usual. I have no idea what the threat of rain will do, whether it will keep people away or it will keep more people in the bars. The last time it rained was 2000, and I had to leave by 10 a.m. for a wedding. So go at your own risk.

But if you take that risk, you will be treated to the best day NEPA has to offer.

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