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St. Patrick's Day comes early with Alex. parade (VIDEO)

Sunday - 3/4/2012, 12:38pm  ET

Cochran.jpg
''In Ireland they're called the war pipes, and in Scotland they're called the highland pipes,'' says Steve Cochran, bagpipe major with the Northern Virginia Figherfighters Emerald Society Pipe Band. ''But essentially they're the same instrument.'' (WTOP/Maria Hallas)

Maria Hallas, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Crowds cheered, dancers swirled and bagpipes blared at the 31st Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade this Saturday in Alexandria.

Donna Gray, who rode a float at the parade, says she thought it was a good idea to hold the parade almost two weeks before the official holiday.

"It keeps more of a family atmosphere. If it was actually on St. Patrick's Day, it would be hard to bring the children around," Gray says.

Steve Cochran is a bagpipe major with the Northern Virginia Figherfighters Emerald Society Pipe Band. He showed WTOP the famous musical instrument that characterizes St. Patrick's Day.

"In Ireland they're called the war pipes, and in Scotland they're called the highland pipes," Cochran says. "But essentially they're the same instrument."

WTOP caught up with a man costumed as founding father George Washington who looked remarkably similar to the first president. Washington didn't think it at all odd he was a revolutionary war character and marched in the parade for St. Patrick's Day.

"We honor people of all ethnic persuasions," Washington says. "I have an English heritage and we have an Irish group here and a Scottish group here."

Over 300 people participated in the parade and thousands of adults, children and pets lined King Street to watch.

Along with traditional Irish Bands, some notable participants included local high school bands, military commanders, the Irish Ambassador, and the marines.

Check out this gallery for more from the parade.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)