DANNY BOY A kilt-wearing bagpiper (Hal Wilkes) runs through the hits of the Irish songbook during Healdsburg's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. (Photo by Rick Tang)

For some reason, Healdsburg has become known for its St. Patrick’s Day parade. If it’s not the best, then certainly it’s the earliest. Starting at 6am, give or take—that’s pretty early. 

For the past 29 years or so, early risers (or possibly those who stay up all night celebrating) have gathered in the 400 block of Healdsburg Avenue in the pre-dawn, there to engage in a raucous holiday celebration replete with bagpipes, conch shells, snare drums and general mayhem.

PIXIE Christine Webster is a regular at the early-morning St. Patrick’s Day parade. (Photo by Rick Tang)

Bill Coleman, the former owner of the B&B Lounge which at the time was located where John & Zeke’s is today, is said to have started the tradition in the mid-1990s. The purpose, if there was one, was supposedly to wake up the slumbering tourists in nearby hotels, to let them know that Healdsburg took some things more seriously than tourism—in this case, early morning drinking.

While that’s one possibility, the Hotel Healdsburg wasn’t even built then, so whatever tourists the B&B merrymakers were trying to wake up weren’t staying there. Also there’s the indisputable fact that, even in Healdsburg, mid-March is not tourist season. (Well, it wasn’t then anyway.)

The Idea Catches On

Regardless, the idea caught on: Meet at the B&B for an Irish Coffee to start the day, bring out the bagpipes and march around the Plaza on St. Patrick’s Day. What could go wrong?

REALTOR John Torres won’t miss the St. Patrick’s Day Parade if he’s in town. (Photo by Rick Tang)

Now John & Zeke’s is where the B&B used to be (420 Healdsburg Ave.), and keeping the tradition alive they will open at 6am on Sunday. Expect hundreds of people show up on March 17 there or in front of Sanderson Ford (453 Healdsburg Ave.), primed for the parade that begins at 7am.

People are dressed in festive green, with hair dyed an appropriate hue, leading pets bedecked in cosplay and joining a spontaneous parade of bespoke floats, sometimes inappropriately dressed revelers, a green-sashed Queen of St. Patrick’s Day and a Grand Marshal VIP, riding in a convertible.

In other words the idea caught on, proving that even the least colorful story still makes for a good reason to have a parade.

The Morning After 

Although the party vibe is strong, it begins to dissipate with sunlight, and things calm down as the morning advances. But adding to its rich menu of annual events in the Plaza, Healdsburg Community Services has once again reserved the Plaza for the annual Kiwanis St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, cosponsored by Healdsburg Kiwanis.

HORNBLOWER Councilmember Chris Herrod blows the conch he carries for just such occasions. (Photo by David Hagele)

Billed as “a lot of fun and a little shenanigans for kids of all ages,” it begins at 11am with a garden of fairy houses, children’s fairy-door-making crafts and games, face-painting, snack food and toy giveaways.

The day includes two sets of music by the high-energy Celtic rock band Tempest between noon and 1:30pm, and two traditional Irish step-dancing performances by the Shiloh Step Dancers, planned for 12:35pm and 12:55pm. 

“Don’t miss this chance to put on your green and celebrate the best of Irish culture in Healdsburg,” urges the city promotion. And with the weather building up to a long weekend of sunny days, it could well be the first best party of the year.

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


  1. Another great article by Christian Kallen. I like his writing style. I’ve lived here 25 years and never been to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade though I have passed out LED shamrock necklaces in the past at the bars and businesses around town. That all ended after March 16th, 2020. One last pint of Guinness at Healdsburg Bar & Grill before the deluge of bullshit fell upon us all.
    I hope everyone has a good time. Nowadays it isn’t the wearing of the green in Healdsburg that counts. It’s how much green is in your pocketses.

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