by Kenny Knauer
As surely as the swallows return to Capistrano (and the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio), the Ides of March brings a welcome sight to our winter-weary eyes the 18th Annual St. Pat's Parade of the Ozarks.
No need to lubricate or pack the car this month, or get a trip plan itinerary printed and mailed to you, and no late-night raids on the family savings account stay at home in Springfield and have a wonderful time with your neighbors and their families!
Give way to those secret desires to paint your face (and the family wagon) green, load up the kids, the spouse and the family pet (on leash) and enter the no-entry-fee annual event.
Pat Flanigan, co-chair of this year's event, assures us, "Trophies awarded in 10 very whimsical categories, handsome cash prizes for the top three float entries, free entertainment before and after the event, food and drink available for purchase, group decorating sessions and face painting available."
Later that evening, for the over-21 lads and lassies, the annual pub crawl and entertainment sessions go on at a number of downtown locations, where one entrance fee entitles the bearer to admission to all of the participating pubs.
Prize categories include Best Irish Group, Best Irish Float, Best Musical Entry, Best Individual Costume, Best-Dressed Irish Pet, Best-Dressed Irish Plant, Best Contraption on Wheels, Best Out-of-Town Entry, Best Out-of-State Entry and Best-Dressed Irish Family.
There is still plenty of time to get parade applications for this year's event.
Stop by Corner Printing at 411 S. Campbell, corner of Walnut and Campbell, fill out and turn in your applications while you're there; or applications can be filled out and turned in at Downtown Springfield Association, 311 Park Central East. Late applications can be brought to the parade assembly point at Benton and Division at noon Sat., March 14.
Parade festivities begin on Park Central Square at 11 a.m., when food and drink booths open. At 11:30, there's family-theme entertainment by the famed Cajun-Irish shock band The O'Garbonzos, followed by the musical guest of the day, Jerry Hanlon, whose traditional tunes and music have brightened many an event.
Hanlon will perform 12:30-1 p.m. At 1, the the parade units will have already started assembling at the corner of Benton and Division (between Division and Commercial) adjacent to Cox Hospital North's parking lot. The head of the parade will be facing Commercial Street, and the tail will be at Division.
The parade marches out at 2 o'clock sharp. If you have not been in the parade in recent years (or at all) come at noon to the assembly point and show us your application form (if you haven't mailed it in). We'll show you where to line up for the start.
Gary Harper, co-chair of this year's event, reminds us, "It's a people's parade; it is a parade to be in, not just watch!"
You can dress as your secret fantasy, a naughty leprechaun or whatever strikes your Irish fancy. You don't need to be Irish to enter, or wear green, but it helps to have a happy attitude, a good sense of humor, and bring lots of friends to help join in the fun. It is a family affair for kids of all ages. If you can walk, crawl, bark or whistle, we want you!
See you in the parade ...
(Kenny Knauer is an organizer of the St. Pat's Parade, a participant with the parks, greenways and open spaces committee of Vision 20/20, and a long-time member and volunteer on the steering committee of Founder's Park.)
On track to be open for the 2024-25 school year, an Ozark High School activities center is under construction near Tiger Stadium.