The seventh annual St. Patrick's Day Parade is set to roll down 30A bigger and better than ever.

Irish-born Paul Vizard moved to South Walton in 2007 from Key West, a town with many a parade.

Vizard looked around and saw there was no St. Patrick's Day parade or celebration here. Thinking it might be a good idea to introduce something to the community, in 2008 he founded the 30A St. Patrick's Day parade.

He believes that first year there were maybe 15 entrees. This year, there will be 50. Vizard says this celebration of the Irish and St. Patrick is now the largest in Northwest Florida.

This year, parade goers can expect to find a new grand marshal in Panama City talk radio show personality Burnie Thompson, who Vizard says, is also of Irish descent.

The parade this year will begin an hour later than in the past to accommodate night-time festivities.

"In previous years we ended at dark, but this year we are going beyond dark," he said.

At parade's end at Gulf Place, revelers will find commemorative T-shirts, arts and crafts, including knitted jewelry, wood carving, face painting, and a variety of food and drinks such as green beer and corned beef and cabbage. Marie's Bistro is returning and Messina's will both serve traditional Irish fare. Redd's Fueling Station will join them.

In addition, this year, whiskey tastings will be offered.

Irish dancers from the Drake School of Irish Dance, and a band, which is set to begin playing at 5 p.m., will take the Gulf Place stage.

Headlining is the Celtic rock band Cleghorn from Texas, which Vizard said he has been trying get for two years.

"They will be bringing a bagpipe and flutes with them," he said. 

New this year is the addition of a performance by Northwest Florida Ballet's of America's Got Talent finalists, Lightwire Theater, which follows the band.

"We expect this celebration to be the best yet," said Vizard.

The seventh-annual 30A St. Patrick's Day Parade begins at 3 p.m. March 15 and will travel four miles west on 30A, ending at Gulf Place. A trophy will be awarded to Best in Parade for the best decorated car, truck, or float.

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