Living in Arkansas means living a life full of disappointment. But lately, nothing has made me sadder than the revelation that I missed out on the best of all St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. New York may have the biggest parade, and Chicago may dye it’s river a fungal shade of emerald, but my heart belongs to the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which has occurred in Hot Springs, Arkansas for the past eight years.
The parade is held on Bridge Street, which stretches only 98 feet in length. It’s apparently a big deal, and it’s only getting bigger. When it began, only 2000 spectators showed up. This year, they were expecting over 30,000 people! To give you sense of scale, if the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade were held in South Dakota, it would become the state’s third biggest city.
And why wouldn’t you go? The parade includes a cornucopia of respectful Irish homages, including the Irish Order of the Elvi (a gaggle of green-clad Elvis impersonators) and “Lards of the Dance” (a group of overweight cloggers).
(I feel I should point out that I’m genuinely sad that I missed this. I would have dropped everything to attend. It’s not as though I’ve got anything important going on.)
Hot Springs is also home to the Arkansas Blarney Stone, which is incorporated into the festivities. Prior to the parade participants take part in a Blarney Stone Kissing Contest. According to promotional materials, “if you can romance the stone better than the others, you could win $100 cash!”
Which sounds like you actually have to use a little tongue if you want the cash.
The parade is big enough to attract a celebrity grand marshal. In the past, the role was filled by a veritable who’s-who of Dancing-With-the-Stars-level celebrities including Mario Lopez, Bo Derek, and the inimitable Pauly Shore.
They’ve even drafted, on two separate years, John Ratzenberger and George Wendt from Cheers.
This year, the corpulent ladies of Arkansas got to feast their hungry eyes on John Corbett. It was particularly exciting, because Corbett was providing his own horse.
The promoter for the event optimistically declared “The addition of a star of John Corbett’s caliber is already stirring unprecedented interest in the parade.”
In addition to the raw, sexual star-caliber of people like Pauly Shore and George Wendt, the parade also includes a cavalcade of celebrity look-alikes, including:
and Austin Powers
The audience is also encouraged to dress up…
and dress up their animals…
Despite the presence of little people dressed up like KISS and animal cruelty, the sponsors are quick to point out that this parade is not strictly a celebration of Eire. “It’s not devoted to a bunch of blarney about being Irish,” said the spokesman for the parade, displaying the tact Arkansans are known for. “It’s devoted to having fun.”
So God willing, I know where I’ll be next March 17th. I’ll be up in Hot Springs, celebrating a non-irish St. Pat’s and dressing up as a traditional Irish pickle.