SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s time to celebrate Savannah’s biggest holiday.

The 199th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade kicked off downtown Friday morning with bands, soldiers, floats, shamrocks and green garb.

With the parade falling on a Friday, city leaders expected the heaviest crowds the Hostess City has ever seen.

“We’ve seen crowds higher than 100,000 before, easy, and that’s what we’re expecting this year for a Friday parade,” said Savannah City Manager Jay Melder.

The Hostess City’s parade is known as one of the largest in the U.S. behind New York City and Chicago. Dedicated paradegoers will camp out near sidewalks and squares to get some of the best views of the event.

History of Savannah St. Patrick’s Day

The public observance of St. Patrick’s Day in the Hostess City traces its roots back to 1824.

According to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, a day prior to March 17 of that year, the Hibernian Society posted a notice in the local paper inviting Savannahians to join them for a discourse at the Roman Catholic Church.

It’s said to be the first documentation of a St. Patrick’s Day invitation to the general public.

Today, the Committee kicks off parade day with Mass at the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It’s an effort to keep faith at the center of the event celebrating St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Why do we celebrate on March 17?

The holiday is observed on March 17 in observance of St. Patrick’s death. It began as a feast day and over time, turned into a secular celebration of Irish culture.

According to Britannica, perhaps one of the most popular legends of St. Patrick is his use of three leaflets of the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity.

The shamrock is now known as the national flower of Ireland.