Revelers throng
St. Patrick’s parade

Crowds cheered and bagpipes bellowed as New York City’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade kicked off Saturday, and people with a fondness for anything Irish began a weekend of festivities.

In New York, the massive parade, which predates the United States, was led by 750 members of the New York Army National Guard. The 1st Battalion of the 69th Infantry has been marching in the parade since 1851.

Hundreds of thousands lined the parade route in New York, cheering the marching bands, dance troupes and politicians. St. Patrick’s Day is Sunday, but the parade was held a day early so as not to interfere with religious observances.

In downtown Chicago, thousands along the Chicago River cheered as workers on a boat dumped dye into the water, turning it a bright fluorescent green for at least a few hours in an eye-catching local custom.

Thousands of revelers, gaudily garbed in green, crammed the oak-shaded squares and sidewalks of downtown Savannah, Ga., on Saturday, for a celebration that’s a 189-year-old tradition. Led by bagpipers in green kilts, a parade kicked off Saturday morning, hours after customers began lining up at downtown bars. More than 1,000 worshippers also packed the pews of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist for the Mass that traditionally precedes the parade.

In Maryland, Annapolis held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade March 10. And in Belmar, N.J., a shore town hit hard by superstorm Sandy, a 40-year-old parade tradition contributed to a sense of renewal March 3.

With the festivities came warnings from police in Baltimore, Washington and elsewhere that they would be on the lookout for drunk drivers.

— Associated Press

Major wildfire threatens homes

The wildfire season that Coloradans have been nervously awaiting has arrived in a wind-whipped frenzy in the foothills near Fort Collins.

The year’s first major wildfire along the populous Front Range was spotted late Friday morning and raced across 750 to 1,000 acres by Friday night. More than 50 homes were threatened, and authorities issued hundreds of evacuation orders.

Officials reported that the fire was 5 percent contained Saturday, and crews were hoping for calmer weather. Firefighters saved two homes and the visitors center at Lory State Park from flames, authorities said. They said no homes had been destroyed.

The fire was burning west of Horsetooth Reservoir, near the scene of a large wildfire last summer that burned 259 homes and killed one person.

The cause of Friday’s fire was under investigation. Firefighters controlled a second, smaller fire nearby earlier in the day.

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Department said automated calls ordering evacuations were sent to 860 phone numbers ahead of the larger fire. But some addresses have multiple lines and other numbers were for cellphones, authorities said, so the number of homes in the evacuation area was not known.

Residents of a neighborhood north of the fire were allowed to go home Friday night. Authorities said 281 evacuation calls had been made to that area.

— Associated Press

Pregnant coach, driver killed in crash

A road trip by a college women’s lacrosse team came to a horrifying end Saturday when the team bus veered off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and crashed into a tree, killing a pregnant coach, the fetus and the driver, and injuring numerous others, authorities said.

Seton Hill University team players and coaches were among the 23 people aboard when the bus crashed just before 9 a.m. No other vehicle was involved, and police could not immediately say what caused the accident.

Coach Kristina Quigley, 30, of Greensburg was flown to a hospital where she died of injuries suffered in the crash, Cumberland County authorities said. Quigley was about six months pregnant, and the fetus did not survive, authorities said. Quigley, a native of Baltimore, was married and had a young son, Gavin, according to the university, in Greensburg.

The bus driver, Anthony Guaetta, 61, of Johnstown, died at the scene.

The other passengers were removed from the bus within an hour and taken to hospitals as a precaution. The collision appeared to have shorn away the front left side of the bus, which was upright about 70 yards from the road at the bottom of a grassy slope.

The bus company, Mlaker Charter & Tours, of Davidsville, Pa., is up to date on its inspections, which include bus and driver safety checks, said Jennifer Kocher, a spokeswoman for the state Public Utility Commission, which regulates bus companies.

— Associated Press

Phoenix-bound dog ends up in Ireland: An English springer spaniel named Hendrix took a serious detour on his way from New Jersey to Phoenix this past week. He ended up in Ireland after being put on the wrong flight. United Airlines spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said the 6-year-old dog was traveling in cargo Thursday when the mix-up occurred. When the error was discovered, she said, the airline took immediate steps to return Hendrix to his owner. Phoenix television station KNXV reported that the first word owner Meredith Grant got about the mix-up was in a phone call from the airline before Hendrix’s original flight was supposed to land in Phoenix. Hendrix was returned. The airline apologized and offered a full refund.

— From news services