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Stolen kisses
A tradition is likely to continue despite barricades
Chelsea Scott with a friend at last year's parade

PUCKER UP, SAVANNAH. As this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade winds through downtown Savannah, look for young women dressed in green to run toward the marchers and kiss surprised fire fighters, soldiers and Benedictine Academy cadets.

“It’s fun,” explains St. Vincent’s Academy senior Ashley Everett, 18.

Adds Kaelsey Ehret, also 18, “It’s tradition.”

Agrees Chelsea Scott, 18, “It’s St. Patrick’s Day!”

For generations Savannah women young and old have applied thick lipstick, rushed into Savannah’s rows of marchers, selected a victim and kissed him. Of course, not every Savannah woman wants to participate.

“I’ve heard about this,” says Amanda Meadows, 18, who recently moved to Savannah from Atlanta and didn’t plan to participate. “I don’t think my boyfriend would like it.”

But other women say the St. Patrick’s Day kissing was fine.

Scott, another St. Vincent’s Academy senior, says she only kisses young men she knows. But she still takes a generous approach to kissing. “I’ll go up and down the rows” looking for someone to kiss, she says.

Though there will be barricades this year at some major intersections — for instance around Lafayette and Chippewa squares — the girls weren’t troubled by that prospect; they say they thought they could still reach their quarry.

With the parade just a few days away, several young women, all veteran St. Patrick’s Day kissers, explain their strategy.

For starters, you have to dress in style.

“You wear anything flashy that’s green,” explains Scott, who was preparing for the holiday this year by shopping for a green dress and green heels to go with it.

Another required item: beads. “You’ve got to have them,” lots of green ones, of course, Scott says — and the other young women agree.

Also required: lipstick, the brighter the better.

St. Vincent’s senior Taylor Gregory likes “bright pink lipstick” but Ashley Ehret prefers “bright red.” Meanwhile,Kaelsey Ehret likes “bright orange —and something that doesn’t come off easily.”

On parade day, the girls hang out together, applying and reapplying lipstick and studying the marchers for young men they’d like to kiss. When they see a victim, they race toward him, often with lipstick in hand.

“It’s purely spontaneous,” Gregory says.

But there can be some art to chasing down a marcher, explains Carolan Keaton, 17, also from St. Vincent’s.

“You dodge and you kind of run toward them,” she says, describing how she weaves through a line of cadets to reach her target.

As for the men, “They like it,” says Keaton. “They count the kisses and see who has the most.”

Keaton says she’s been kissing marchers ever since she was five or six years old. But then, she comes by this tradition naturally. “My mom did it too,” she says.

Kaelsey Ehret has also been kissing marchers for more than a decade. When she was five or six, “my dad would take me and hold me up” so that she could give one of the Benedictine boys a kiss, she says.

Savannah resident Tina Simon also remembers kissing marchers when she was younger. But she won’t be participating in the tradition this year.

“I just kind of grew out if it,” she says.