It’s that time of year! The taps are flowing with green beer to celebrate the St. Patrick’s Day season! The Green Beer Sunday tradition was started by local pub owner Peter Coleman in 1964. At the age of 82, Coleman still leads off the parade every year, starting at the famous upside-down traffic light all the way to Coleman’s… just a block-and-a-half away. Yes, it’s definitely one of the shortest parades around, but it’s also one of the most popular in Syracuse!
The History of the Upside-Down Traffic Light
While Syracuse is home to several groups of immigrants, the far-western part of the city was highly populated by Irish immigrants, mostly from the county of Tipperary. The name “Tipperary Hill” started as a nickname for the neighborhood, but has since become official. The area is full of Irish descendants, pubs, and Irish culture – including an upside-down traffic light. There are many stories about how this came to be, but they all agree on one thing: the green is on top to honor the heritage of the Irish people who live there.
Leading up to the celebrations, a ‘Miss Green Beer’ is chosen from Irish gals who live in the Tipp Hill area. The parade organizers also select a grand marshall to lead the parade. Other logistics include arranging for the bagpipers and Irish dancers who will entertain the crowds.
Not a beer drinker? That’s okay! Heck, you don’t even have to be Irish! The event is celebrated by people of all ages and backgrounds. From wee little Irish dancers to Peter Coleman himself, everybody enjoys Green Beer Sunday. While short, the parade exudes such energy! Participants toss out beads, hats, t-shirts, candy, and more. My favorite part? Free green half-moon cookies from local Harrison Bakery. Yum! The parade ends with the arrival of the long beer tanker ‘containing green beer brought over from the Emerald Isle.’ It’s all for show of course; the green beer is already flowing from the taps before the truck shows up! But it’s the symbol that matters – much like the arrival of Santa Claus at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Following the parade, you can head inside to Coleman’s, hang out in the parking lot at the pavilion, or visit any of the local pubs in the area. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong!
Okay, okay. We all know that the beer isn’t naturally green. It’s just good ol’ Coors Light with green food coloring added. Again, it’s all for fun! If you’re not feeling like Coors, there are a few other options on tap. But the tradition is to get yourself a pitcher of green beer and drink from it!
Not a lush? Yea, me either. While I do enjoy my occasional beer, I prefer wine and cocktails. They have that covered too! In addition to a few local wine selections, 1911 Spirits also offers green cider. This year they’ve even upped their game, offering the ‘Loaded Leprechaun’, a cocktail made from Byrne Dairy’s mint chocolate milk and 1911’s cold brew vodka. (Takes us back to the ‘Tipsy Cow’ from the New York State Fair!)
Tips & Tricks for Green Beer Sunday
Get there early. It gets very crowded! Even more so as the day goes on and the band starts playing.
Have a designated driver. It can get messy – it is a beer parade after all.
Wear green – duh.
Try to get your wristband for the outdoor pavilion before the parade. That way you’ll avoid the lines after the tanker arrives.
Unless you’re looking for the Loaded Leprechaun or a full meal, stay outside. Inside gets incredibly packed. Outside they have a large parking lot and pavilion with multiple stations serving beer.
Most importantly, have fun!
Irish Season in Syracuse
Missed Green Beer Sunday? No worries! You can find green beer on draft at Coleman’s and several other local restaurants from now through St. Patrick’s Day. The Loaded Leprechaun can only be found at Beak & Skiff and Coleman’s for the season. Also, there is still the bigger and bolder Syracuse St. Patrick’s Day Parade coming soon!