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St. Pat's festivities start March 20

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For the 19th year, Ozarkers wearing green will take to the streets of downtown Springfield and celebrate the saint who drove the snakes from Ireland.

Proceeds from the St. Patrick's Day Parade and Irish Festival, to be held March 20, will benefit Ozarks Greenways, which parade organizer Pat Flanigan said is "a nice tie-in."

Flanigan said the parade and celebration contributes to downtown revitalization by bringing people out for the parade who don't make it downtown much otherwise.

"People who get downtown to see the parade can look around and see what we have to offer down here," Flanigan said.

Sponsored by the Downtown Springfield Association, the Downtown Dining and Entertainment Commission and several Springfield businesses, the celebration will begin on the square at 11 a.m., when food and drink booths open. Music by the McSwain Brothers, featuring Lee Worman, Drew Holt and Grady Wilson, will entertain revelers starting at noon.

Parade units will assemble at Benton and Commercial at 1 p.m., with the parade kicking off at 2 p.m. and continuing until "3:30-ish" as the parade makes its way down Boonville toward the square, disbanding on Park Central West.

Flanigan said the cost to put on the parade this year is about $5,500, although there is no cost to participate in it.

"We're trying to keep it as a free parade," Flanigan said.

Flanigan said the event added two new categories of prizes this year.

"The (St. Patrick's Day Parade and Celebration) Committee trophy will be awarded separately from the cash prizes awarded by the judges. We'll pick what we consider to be the best entry and give them a trophy and an O'Sullivan entertainment center," Flanigan said. The other new category is a youth group category.

Five judges will award $500, $250 and $100 cash prizes for best Irish float, and trophies will be given for best Irish group, best musical entry, best out-of-town entry, best individual costume, best youth group, best out-of-state entry, best-dressed Irish plant and best-dressed Irish family at 4 p.m. at Springfield Brewing Company. And, with a little Irish luck, O'Fido or O'Fluffy might also bring home a prize for best-dressed Irish pet.

The St. Patrick's Day Pub Crawl, a separate event sponsored by the Downtown Dining and Entertainment Commission, will begin at 8 p.m. Bars participating in the pub crawl include Harlow's, Harpo's, The Juke Joint, The Bar Next Door, The Abyss, Martha's Vineyard, The Burgandy Room, Springfield Brewing Company, Ezar's, High Life and South Street Boogie.

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