Kelly's St. Patrick's Parade steps off at 1 p.m. March 18

Outer Banks restaurateur Mike Kelly, pictured with his wife Willo Kelly, founded the annual Kelly's St. Patrick's Parade in 1990 with radio station WOBR-Beach 95 FM.


There’s an old saying that goes, “everybody loves a parade.”

Well, maybe not everybody, but thousands of people on the Outer Banks do.

For 28 years, throngs of Irish and Irish-for-the-day folks have turned out for the annual Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Parade in Nags Head.

Attendance in past years has ranged from 5 to 10,000, depending on the weather.

On a side note: The parade, always on a Sunday, has run on schedule every year but one: In 1993, one of those nasty nor’easters caused it to be postponed for a week.

This year’s event starts at 1 p.m., Sunday, March 18, and the theme is “red, white and blue with a touch of green.”

Nags Head resident Marie Bridgers, whose late-husband Ernie led the parade’s award-winning beach chair drill team for many years, will serve as the grand marshal. Bob Muller of Nags Head will serve as emcee.

Mary Ann Newman of Nags Head is in her 20th year as parade director.

Advertised as the “biggest parade in North Carolina,” the processional usually draws 2,000 participants and more than 100 floats, vehicles (antique cars, fire trucks and golf carts, etc.), animals and marchers.

“If you’re looking for the Macy’s Day parade, this isn’t it,” says the legendary OBX restaurateur Mike Kelly, who started the event in 1990 with radio station WOBR-Beach 95FM. “If you want Norman Rockwell, this is it.”

The big parade feels like a family reunion, as locals re-connect after a long winter.

Visitors can get a sense of the strong community on the Outer Banks.

“It’s sort of the unofficial arrival of spring,” says Kelly, who recently closed Kelly’s Outer Banks Restaurant and Tavern in Nags Head after 32 years in business.

“It’s a warm and fuzzy thing,” says Kelly, who still owns and operates Mako’s Beach Grille + Bar in Kill Devil Hills and Pamlico Jack’s Restaurant & Bar in Nags Head.

There’s lots of noise, music and free candy, which is tossed to spectators.

The parade rolls south to north on Virginia Dare Trail, the beach road, from Bladen Street at milepost 11.5 to Driftwood Street at milepost 10.5 in Nags Head.

An after-party will be take place at Mako’s Beach Grille + Bar at 1630 N. Croatan Hwy., milepost 7, Kill Devil Hills.

DJ Marshall will spin some tunes, and there will be free hot dogs and soft drinks. All are welcome.

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