Kissing the troops has been a St. Patrick’s Day pastime in Savannah for at least 40 years. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Army: No more kissing soldiers on St. Patrick’s in Savannah

  • Mar. 8, 2018 12:30 p.m.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The Army wants to halt a favourite St. Patrick’s Day shenanigan in Savannah that for decades has left marching soldiers with cheeks smeared in bright red lipstick.

Roughly 200 soldiers from nearby Fort Stewart plan to take part in the March 17 parade, which organizers say could draw 500,000 or more revelers to Georgia’s oldest city. Savannah’s Irish immigrants and their descendants have marched on St. Patrick’s Day since 1824. The sprawling celebration is now one of the South’s largest street parties after Mardi Gras.

As the parade winds around Savannah’s oak-shaded squares, women in the crowd traditionally slather on red lipstick as they wait for the uniformed troops to approach in formation among kilt-wearing pipe bands and floats pulled by shamrock-decorated pickup trucks. Then they dart into the street to plant messy kisses on the soldiers’ faces.

But Fort Stewart commanders and organizers of the Savannah parade want the soldier smooching to stop. Parade adjutants posted along the route are being asked to help turn back any would-be kissing bandits.

“They need to look like soldiers when they march, they need to look professional,” Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said Thursday. “It’s hard to look professional as a soldier with red lipstick on your cheeks. Red lipstick is not part of the uniform.”

Kissing the troops, Irish or not, has been a St. Patrick’s Day pastime in Savannah for at least 40 years.

Brian Counihan, chairman of the Savannah parade’s organizing committee, said he recalled seeing it when he marched in the parade in the 1970s as a teenage cadet from Benedictine Military School.

“It was sporadic, a few of your girlfriends and your moms would run out,” Counihan said. “In the last six or eight years, it’s come to a point where the military’s almost halted. … It’s a fun thing, but it’s gotten out of hand.”

Counihan, a deputy commander for the local sheriff’s department, said having random spectators dash up to the moving parade raises safety and security concerns. Organizers also want to avoid any appearance of sexual misconduct at a time when the #MeToo movement has heightened awareness.

“People can take it the wrong way,” Counihan said. “Somebody could run up and grab an individual and it could be considered sexual harassment if it’s done improperly.”

It’s not unusual for organizers to make tweaks to the parade to promote safety. Throwing beads and candy from floats was banned long ago in Savannah. Police a few years ago added barricades along parts of the route to keep spectators out of the streets.

The Army and the parade committee aren’t seeking penalties for any parade watchers who slip through and land an illicit kiss.

“We can’t control other people’s behaviour,” Larson said. “We’re simply asking them to police themselves and do right by our soldiers.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Hundreds come to Red Deer Rebels Fan Fest

The Red Deer Rebels met with hundreds of fans just a couple… Continue reading

Red Deer GoodLife no longer installing pool

Red Deer GoodLife Fitness members itching to swim will need to find… Continue reading

Hwy 2 detour Friday

Traffic detoured between Gaetz Avenue and Taylor Drive

Red Deer students are fighting subtle discrimination to help build a culture of tolerance

‘Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination’ marked at local high school

WATCH: Red Deerians can have a say about crime fighting

Municipality will poll citizens about policing priorities

Facebook crisis-management lesson: What not to do

NEW YORK — The crisis-management playbook is pretty simple: Get ahead of… Continue reading

Calgary remains interested in 2026 bid, but awaits word from feds, province

Calgary city council approved a slate of moves towards a possible bid… Continue reading

Online threat to U.S. high school traced to girl, 14, in Canada, police say

American authorities say a 14-year-old girl in Canada has been charged with… Continue reading

Comedian Mike MacDonald remembered for gut-busting mental health advocacy

If laughter is the best medicine, then standup veteran Mike MacDonald was… Continue reading

The Weeknd, Bruno Mars to headline Lollapalooza in Chicago

CHICAGO — The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Jack White and Arctic Monkeys will… Continue reading

No rest for the retired: Opioid crisis fills empty nests as grandparents step up

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — She is a Newfoundland woman who worked hard… Continue reading

Duclos defends gender-neutral language amid criticism from opposition

MONTREAL — Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos defended Service Canada’s decision to ask… Continue reading

Lawyer and negotiator: Thomas Molloy is new Saskatchewan lieutenant-governor

REGINA — Lawyer and negotiator Thomas Molloy has been sworn in as… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month