ROANOKE, Va. – Businesses and restaurants in downtown Roanoke are preparing for the massive crowds set to attend this Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Shamrock Festival.
This year will be Antonio Lopez’s first festival in downtown Roanoke since his family opened up a second Tacos Rojas location a few months ago inside the City Market building.
He said they are already stocking up on food and planning on offering some. In addition, the restaurant will be expanding its hours.
“We open at 9:30 a.m. to, we close at 3 a.m.” said Lopez.
Green shamrocks line the windows of She’s International Boutique in downtown Roanoke.
The shop’s owner Diane Speaks said they’re hoping to attract even more customers.
“It’s very festive and so we’ll have lots of fun,” Speaks said. "Everybody’s all dressed up and everything. And so we’re going to be having some sales.”
Last year’s parade and festival drew in about 40,000 people to the Star City, about double the previous year.
Downtown Roanoke Inc.’s Jaime Clark said if the weather cooperates, there could be even more this year.
“We do anticipate even larger crowds," said Clark.
One of the reasons for more people is the fact that the Budweiser Clydesdales will be taking part in the parade.
While Clark said it’s hard to track how much money the festivities bring into downtown businesses and restaurants, they all certainly feel the effects.
“We hear anecdotally, of course, from our businesses that it’s a huge day, especially the restaurants. The retailers experience some of that,"Clark said. "But a lot of people come down here to celebrate so it’s a very, very big day for downtown. We have one of the largest celebrations on the east coast.”
“We’re glad that we’re here downtown. It’s a nice area, nice people," Lopez said. "We’re excited.”