Note: Jump to the bottom of this post for all the deets on the NFK Currents + Mudita Cafe post-parade event: Shamrocks & Shenanigans, and every other post-parade event.
After two long years of pandemic postponements, the Ocean View St. Patrick’s Day Parade is back in action. Whether you’re new to the parade or just looking for a refresher, here are some tips on making your OV Parade Day an exceptional experience.
The Ocean View St. Patrick’s Day Parade had its first march through town in 1968. That first iteration featured only a tinyl handful of marching bands and floats. Fast forward over five decades to 2019, and Norfolk’s once-humble parade is now monumental on the East Coast. Visitors from across the country make the trip into town for a day of tremendous celebration that includes nearly 200 parade units and tens of thousands of spectators. Marching bands, traditional Irish dancers and musicians, ROTC drill teams, automotive clubs, first-responders, sports teams, fraternal organizations, real estate teams, local politicians, and dozens of other groups make up a parade that stretches over two miles.
The 1.5-mile route snakes through the Ocean View neighborhood, renowned for its unpretentious beach lifestyle and history as a resort destination and Navy community. The route features a handful of bleachers; however, most spectators bring chairs and blankets to assemble along the sidewalks and medians. The dozens of homes that line the route will host mini-celebrations of their own. These private parties showcase bands, dancefloors, games, and copious refreshments, adding to the jubilant energy of the parade. Being private, you’ll need to know someone to participate in these. Ask around your friend groups, and someone might have an invite to share.
It’s no secret that this parade and the associated celebrations have become well-known as popular drinking events, reflecting a tradition found in St. Patricks Day celebrations across the world. Families and small children are welcome and will feel comfortable at most areas of the parade route; however, it won’t take a keen eye to spot the partying spectators. If you’re particularly opposed to the presence of alcohol, it’s best to steer clear of the terminus at Knights of Columbus, the parking lot of the Dairy Queen, and houses with apparent signs of a large gathering. It’s important to note that it’s illegal to consume alcohol in public, offer alcohol to another person, or possess an open container of alcohol under Virginia law. That won’t stop thousands from partaking, a number which is too great for any real enforcement. Nonetheless, police will be present throughout the parade route, so if you join in on the drinking, make sure it’s in a nondescript container, you keep it discrete, and you’re not making a scene.
Preparation for the parade is essential. Parking and parade-side seating tend to get claimed quickly. The road closures surrounding the route only add to the logistics struggle. Even with excellent planning, you should expect to walk several blocks from parking to the route. The best bet with parking is to get on-street parking on one of the many cross streets. Off-street parking is available at Sarah Constant Beach Park, Ocean View Beach Park, Pretlow Library, and Ocean View Elementary – but those are an even further trek to the parade route.
Bringing folding chairs seems to be the dominant option for seating, but plenty of folks bring the humble picnic blanket out for the day. You might catch pros dropping off their friends at the parade route with a handful of chairs while they circle back to look for parking. There are limited bleachers, so you’ll have to get out pretty early to claim a seat if you want one. However, chilly weather is no stranger to the parade, and sitting on cold metal isn’t always a pleasant experience.
Other things to bring with you are water, snacks, and a tote bag (for the goodies!). Lastly, don’t forget to don all your green gear. You’ll see plenty of folks decked out head to toe in the leprechaun’s favorite color. Green shirts, hats, face paint, beads, and more will be on full display.
Post Parade: Shamrocks & Shennanigans
Of course, the fun doesn’t stop when the parade ends. The after-parade events are worth sticking around for. This year there’s a new entrant into the event lineup that needs to be on your radar. NFK Currents (yours truly) and Mudita Cafe are putting on a sure-fire winner. Shamrocks & Shenanigans will feature a litany of themed drinks and food items from a Boozy Shamrock Shake to Corned Beef + Cabbage Sliders. The NFK Currents merch booth will be running with two limited green OV Tees (which you can pre-order here), all our OV stickers, and plenty of our all-city merch. Mudita Cafe is only one block off the parade route, so no driving or hitching rides are required. (Sidenote: Mudita Cafe and the NFK Merch Booth will open up at 8 am, so pre-parade t-shirts and Irish coffees will be on deck!) Check out the full menu and merch designs on the Facebook event page.
Here are some other post-parade events happening in OV:
The Knights of Columbus
OV Fishing Pier
A World of Good
Pre-order your OV St. Pat’s gear here! You’ll be able to pick up your shirt from Cafe Mudita, 5:30 – 8:00 pm on Friday, March 11th, and 8 am-5 pm, on Saturday, March 12th.