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Basset hounds waddled, marching bands played and several groups showed off their best Irish dance moves Saturday on the streets of downtown Salt Lake City.

Nina Brown, 6, and her brother Miles, 11, agreed it was tough to pick a favorite entry for the St. Patrick's Day Parade: "I like everything," Nina said. But their dad, Terry, was having no such difficulty — he comes for the bagpipes. "This is probably the only parade we go to every year," he said.

In its 39th year, the parade travels south from the intersection of 400 West and 200 North before heading into The Gateway mall, where a sea of green-clad spectators pack the route and watch from aerial walkways. Many were in short sleeves by 10 a.m. as record-high temperatures climbed into the 70s.

The theme was "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes in America."

The parade's online history states that each year's theme is meant to "incentivize families of Irish descent to develop an appreciation of the hardships faced by their ancestors in adapting to this new land, far from the green hills of home."

Sergio Ferrel, 12, and his brother Jesus, 8, had ridden bikes with their dad from Rose Park to check out their first St. Patrick's Day Parade. These weren't any ordinary bikes: Each was a customized, low-riding chopper bike with decorative green accents affixed to the handlebars. Sergio said he'd surely come back next year: "It's really good," he said.

North Ogden resident Andrew Beck, dressed in a tuxedo with several pieces of regalia, had just finished marching with his fellow Knights of Columbus, and was working his way back along the route to see other entries. A crowd layered five-deep surrounded the streets in some sections.

"The weather's been gorgeous," he said. "And it's a great turnout, coming through the gauntlet here in The Gateway."

Twitter: @lramseth