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St. Patrick's Day Parade and Shamrock Festival sees record attendance

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The streets of downtown Roanoke were packed with people of all ages decked out in green for the 25th annual McDonald's St. Patrick's Day Parade and Shamrock Festival.

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Nearly 24,000 people attended the parade and subsequent festival on Saturday, March 15, 2014, according to the Roanoke Times. Parking lots and sidewalks were packed with families and individuals ready to enjoy one of the Mid-Atlantic's top St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

The McDonald's St. Patrick's Day Parade is among favorite family activities in the Roanoke Valley. Family groups included parents, grandparents and children, many who attend the parade every year.

Clowns and other parade participants handed out candy and beads to kids sitting on the curb. Many kids also enjoyed petting dogs from various area shelters.

Dressed in green and sporting green feather boas, top hats, beads, neckties and shamrock headbands, the crowd was ready for the parade, cheering as each group passed by the review stands at Franklin Road and Jefferson Street.

Many of the parade attendees arrived early to stake out the best spots, including one group who set up a tailgating party in a parking lot.

The weather was perfect for Saturday's parade with sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s and an occasional breeze. The festive air started early in the day and continued after the parade ended.

There were 105 entries in this year's parade, including Bolivian dancers, ponies pulling carts, bagpipe bands, Kazim Shriners clowns, fire engines, beauty queens, politicians, dogs decked out in green, motorcycles, custom cars and floats filled with everything from superheroes to a giant grocery cart.

Judges chose the winners in the following categories:

Best Celtic Theme: Saint Brendan Society
Best Neighborhood: Old Southwest Inc.
Most Patriotic: Patrick Henry High School Air Force Junior ROTC Unit
Best Business: Western Virginia Water Authority
Best Nonprofit: Fraternidad Folklorica y Cultural Ruphay
Best Overall: Parrotheads of the Blue Ridge

Following the parade, music from the Shamrock Festival at Wells Fargo Plaza drifted through downtown Roanoke as people wandered through the artisan and craft booths staged nearby.

Crowds of people headed for Corned Beef and Co. or Flanary's Irish Pub for a pint of green beer, a sandwich and St. Patrick's Day fun with friends as the parade concluded.

Live Celtic music from Second Wynde and Guests, Celtibillies and Beggar's Circus was playing all day outside Corned Beef and Co.

At the McDonald's Kids Area in front of the Taubman Museum of Art, children enjoyed face-painting, inflatables, games and activities all day. The museum offered free admission to the public for the day.

As central Virginians wait for a final blast of winter forecast for St. Patrick's Day, many hope that the luck of the Irish will instead bring another beautiful spring day like Saturday.