SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - Thirsty crowds in the thousands are cramming downtown Savannah for the coastal city's biggest party of the year.

Savannah's 189-year-old St. Patrick's Day parade kicks off Saturday morning. Bars eager to cash in on the celebration will open their doors a few hours beforehand. And the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist will seat 1,000 worshippers for morning Mass before the parade begins.

With area hotels booked solid, Savannah business owners expect a profitable weekend. Tourists and locals began celebrating on the downtown riverfront Friday, and bar owners should see long lines late into Saturday night.

Of course, St. Patrick's Day actually falls on March 17, which is Sunday. But cities including Savannah, New York and Chicago are all holding parades Saturday to take advantage of the full weekend.

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