SAVANNAH, Ga. (CN) – The grandson of an Irish immigrant, Vice President Mike Pence will attend the South’s biggest and rowdiest St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday with his family.
As rumors of the visit circulated the Hostess City, a spokeswoman for Savannah confirmed Tuesday at a press conference that Pence will join Mayor Eddie DeLoach to greet merrymakers at a parade that ranks as the world’s third largest for Ireland’s patron saint.
Savannah’s open-container policy makes the city’s 2.5 square-mile downtown area a hot spot for the more than 300,000 people who gather there from around the world, but Pence himself does not imbibe.
A former Catholic who embraced evangelical Christianity after college, the former governor of Indiana even told The Hill in 2002 that he has a personal policy against attending events where alcohol will be served unless his wife is present.
With his wife by his side on Saturday, however, Pence is set to be a focal point at a parade where last year once city alderman was forced to walk beside his designated float because his inebriated state made it too much of a liability that morning for him to ride in it.
“What great honor to have the vice president come and shine a national spotlight on this event,” Savannah spokeswoman Michelle Gavin said at the press conference.
Parade Committee Chairman Brian Counihan echoed the city’s enthusiasm, noting that Savannah has never hosted a U.S. vice president or president at its parade, which has been around for more than 190 years,
“We’re very excited and overjoyed to have the vice president and his family here,” Counihan said. “We’re looking to forward to showing them a good time.”
Gavin said she did not know how Pence’s invitation to the parade came about, nor could she estimate how much Pence’s appearance will cost the city or how extra security measures will affect the city and the parade.
“We’re very excited to have this national attention on what we already know to be this wonderful St. Patrick’s Day celebration,” Gavin said.
Members of the Savannah Downtown Business Association got some more information about Pence’s visit meanwhile at their monthly meeting Wednesday.
“I cannot disclose any information about the timing or whereabouts of Pence and his family, but I can tell you that areas to watch for are Bay Street, Whitaker, Drayton and Ogelthorpe,” said Susan Broker, civilian commander for the Savannah parade. “If you and your business is located within the area, think about it terms of an airport.”
Broker noted that people trying to get into this zone will have to go through a magnetometer, with little more than cellphones and unopened bottles of water allowed through.
“I want our streets to look full and to be very welcoming,” Broker added. “This is a national opportunity. We know full well that national and international press will be here.”
In Pence’s ancestral home — a rural town in the west of Ireland called Doocastle — the St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicks off Saturday at noon in Sligo Town.
Pence’s Irish roots spurred talk of an official visit shortly after the election, but the chairperson of the Sligo County Council made clear later that he had no intention of inviting Pence out, assuaging concerns from gay constituents.
As a former congressman and governor, Pence boasted ties to some of the Republican Party’s most conservative elements.