Creator upholds claim to shortest St. Pat’s parade

By Wayne Bryan Published March 16, 2014 at 2:02 p.m.
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HOT SPRINGS — Once again, residents of Hot Springs and thousands of visitors will celebrate the Irish on Monday evening with the First Ever 11th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The event, which is expected to attract 30,000 viewers, was named the Event of the Year last year by the Arkansas Festivals and Events Association. The parade was even rated at the top of the list of the Seven Crazy St. Patrick’s Day Events Worldwide by the Discovery Channel.

So why is it that if you search the Internet for information about this singular event, you find references to places such as New York, Colorado, Missouri and Ireland, of all places?

“There are other pretenders,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs and one of the creators of the event. “We are a true parade with tour floats and true bands that travel along [what is] truly the shortest public street in the world.”

The hour-long parade marches, rolls and sometimes shimmies along Bridge Street in Hot Springs, which is measured annually by representatives of The Guinness Book of World Records and verified

as the shortest street actually used by traffic. This year at 6:25 Monday evening, the road will be measured again just before the parade begins.

How short is that? Arrison said the Hot Springs Fire Department’s hook and ladder truck nearly fills the parade route by itself, and bands have to stop playing when they get to the 91st foot.

The Hot Springs parade inspired one of the imitators, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

Pat Gilheany, a patron of a pub in the Bronx, was reading an article about the Hot Springs parade in 2013 when he told Tony Caffrey, owner of the An Beal Bocht pub on West 238th Street, that they could do the same thing.

The west side of the pub was a cafe with its own door, Gilheany is reported to have pointed out to Caffrey.

“We could go in one door and out the other, with a parade route of 47 feet,” he said.

Arrison said that informal indoor walk will not wrangle the title away from the Hot Springs parade.

Imitation is the great form of flattery,” Arrison told the Tri-Lakes Edition. “It is also great that they are raising money to feed the homeless, but they are not taking our parade.”

After the first informal walk across the pub ended, organizers passed a hat among the spectators and raised $800 that was given to the Irish Volunteers for the Homeless, a project in Yonkers that gets meals to homeless people. This year, the organizers are asking participants to pay $25 for the honor of marching, and that will go to the project, Gilheany said.

“I’ve talked to Gilheany, and he is the nicest Irish guy I’ve ever met,” Arrison said.

Yet Arrison remains firm, calling the Bronx event more of an indoor pub crawl than a true parade.

There are other pretenders to the title of the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade:

• A walk around the parking lot of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Pagosa Springs, Colo.;

• A parade with only three official walkers who walk across Main Street from a former drug store to the local lounge, about 66 feet, in Blue Springs, Mo.;

• The Am O’Gansett Parade in Amagansett, N.Y., on Long Island claims the title. The parade’s Facebook page shows participants spread over several city blocks, much shorter than the distance of Bridge Street in Hot Springs.

• In Enterprise, Ala., one person is selected to march around the city’s monument to the boll weevil while reciting limericks and carrying an Irish flag.

• In Dripsey, County Cork, Ireland, townspeople march more than 100 yards from one of the town’s taverns to the other one — a distance three times longer than the parade route in Hot Springs.

Arrison said this year’s World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hot Springs has Jim Belushi as the grand marshal and Mountain Man from the TV reality show Duck Dynasty taking part in the parade.

“We featured the International Order of Elvi — 50 to 100 Irish Elvis Presleys — it’s hard to count them,” Arrison said, “also real belly dancers to Irish music.”

The parade annually includes 40 marching units, floats and performance artists, along with what Arrison called the “assorted crazies.”

This year’s entries also include the Lyon College Pipe Band; St. Patrick Driving the Snakes From Ireland; the new parade mascot — 9-foot-tall Lucky the Leprechaun; the Spa Fever Irish Baton Twirling Girls; the Irish Berdan Green Sharpshooters Civil War re-enactors; and the Fun City Irish Chorus.

The Hot Springs St. Patrick’s Day celebration began with a serious and solemn ceremony on March 12. There was a wreath-laying at the Calvary Cemetery, the grave site of John King, an Irish immigrant who received two Congressional Medals of Honor and who died while being treated at the Army-Navy Hospital in Hot Springs.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will begin at 4:30 p.m. Monday with the annual Arkansas Blarney Stone Kissing Contest at the Arkansas Blarney Stone in front of the Convention Center in Hot Springs. Cash awards will be given to the most creative “romancing the stone” competitors.

“We’ll elevate craziness to a new level,” Arrison promised.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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