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story.lead_photo.caption Monte Everhart, the World’s Tallest Leprechaun, dances at last year’s Worlds Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. His activities for the day include a VIP lunch for sponsors and celebrity guests, a Blarney Stone Kissing contest, officially measuring the parade route and pre-parade interaction with the crowd. Everhart says he has met attendees from Korea, Finland and England, and many from surrounding states.

HOT SPRINGS -- St. Patrick's Day starts early and ends late for the World's Tallest Leprechaun. Monte Everhart of Hot Springs takes on the role again Saturday in the First Ever 15th Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Everhart, who dons a custom-made green and gold leprechaun outfit and dyes his hair and beard orange for the day, says he was on Bridge Street at 5 a.m. last year with a local news station and expects the same this year. Until the parade, he spends time greeting visitors, kissing babies and grandmas, posing for pictures and basically acting as good-will ambassador for Hot Springs.

The very first First Ever World's Shortest Parade was in 2004 and began as a way to take advantage of having the Guinness Book of World Records certified shortest street -- the 98-foot long Bridge Street -- to attract visitors to Hot Springs.

The parade has grown and continues to change since its beginning. This year, Everhart says there is a trifecta of events that he expects will mean bigger crowds -- the parade is on a Saturday, visitors will be in town for the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and it is the beginning of spring break. Past parades have had an estimated attendance of 30,000.

The parade start time has moved back an hour to 7:30 p.m., says Everhart, to allow revelers to get downtown from Oaklawn. Between the stakes and spring break visitors, "This will be, by no question, the largest one ever."

Because of the expected crowd size, extra security has been put in place. "We want it to be a very happy, fun event and for people to feel secure. When the out-of-towners come, we want them to enjoy the best that we have to offer here in Hot Springs."

The St. Patrick's Day festivities will start the day before the parade at O'Kelley's World's Largest Inflatable Pop-Up Pub where current and former parade royalty -- men and women who were selected as parade King and Queen -- will gather to initiate the pub and kick off the weekend festivities. This will be followed by a free concert by Grand Funk Railroad with Arkansas native Adam Faucett as the opening act.

Other firsts this year include a marching band -- The Mountain Pine High School Red Devil Marching Band, and the Budweiser Clydesdales. "We were very fortunate to get them," says Everhart about the eight giant draft horses that will be pulling the famous red beer wagon.

Forty entries will parade down Bridge Street including a dancing dinosaur from Mid-America Science Museum, a team of roller derby skaters, a marching pack of Irish dachshunds and the Fun City Irish Chorus singers.

If that isn't enough to draw a crowd, there are always the celebrities. This year the grand marshal is Joey Fatone of NSYNC; official starter is Jon Heder, star of Napoleon Dynamite; and Morris Day and The Time will give a free concert after the parade. And also the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. "They are always a big draw for the crowd," Everhart says.

All the celebrity guests have been good, but Everhart says he does have his favorites -- John Corbett and Bo Derek. They had so much fun, they've been twice, he says.

"Belushi was a ball," he says about Jim Belushi. "Ric Flair was a lot of fun. He worked the crowd, shook hands and signed autographs and Mike Rowe was a good one."

"Most of them enjoy it because they get to let their hair down. That's one thing that's really fun for them," says Everhart about the celebrities who serve as grand marshal or as parade starter. "They are in Arkansas of all places, in a little town called Hot Springs, on the shortest street in America, with a bunch of crazy people all dressed in green having a good time."

The parade now has a national notoriety, Everhart says, and the credit for that goes to Steve Arrison and the Visit Hot Springs staff. "They work hard and put a lot of hours into it and every year we're getting bigger and bigger."

Everhart got his start as the World's Tallest Leprechaun six years ago when his friend, Dick Antoine, the original World's Tallest Leprechaun, got sick and was unable to continue in the role.

But for the last few years there have been two tall leprechauns at the parade when Antoine felt well enough to put on his costume, but this will be his last year. "He tried to retire last year," Everhart says. "I talked him into doing it with me one more year."

All the events do make for a long day, Everhart admits, but he says he feels like that's his part. "I feel it's my responsibility to mingle with the crowd, make them feel welcome, show a little Arkansas hospitality and thank them for coming to the parade."

"I love it," he says about his role. "My job is to make people smile and to have a good time. It is so unique what we have in little ol' Hot Springs, Arkansas."

On St. Patrick's Day, the Entertainment District which includes vendors, food and the Pop-Up Pub will open at 3 p.m. Parade festivities kick-off at 6:30 with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. After the official measuring of the parade route, the parade will begin at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the parade and other events during the day visit shorteststpats.com

Photo by Cary Jenkins
Monte Everhart, owner of American Tire & Wheel, poses with mementos at his shop from past parades including a photo he took with actor John Corbett. Everhart says Corbett is one of his favorite celebrities to have led the Hot Springs St. Patrick’s Day parade. And yes, Everhart also volunteers as Santa during the Christmas season.

High Profile on 03/11/2018

Print Headline: 'Tallest leprechaun' ready for annual Spa City parade

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