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Arts and Entertainment

Springfield's 38th Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade--Just Bring a Happy Attitude

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(Photo: Jessica Balisle)
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Kenny Knauer, host of KSMU's "Friday Jazz Excursions" program, arrived at the station this morning in full St. Paddy's Day regalia. He was here to publicize the 38th annual Springfield St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday March 17th on Historic Commercial Street.

"Our wonderful little event, it's gotten bigger over the years--quite a bit bigger. We've love to have everyone come out. And our title, 'The People's Parade,' means just what it says:  you don't have to be Irish, you don't have to wear green.  Just bring a happy attitude, and be willing to walk a bit through the streets of Springfield." Kenny's talking active audience participation here. "If you see a group going by that you like, jump right off the curb and be in there with 'em! Especially with our group, the 'Independent Marching Band,' because we welcome ALL participants."

There is fee to be in the parade, says Kenny. "You just show up, sign your name on the dotted line as 'we're in the parade,' and it's as simple as that." In fact, participation in the parade doesn't close until Saturday morning (the 17th). "And we'll have a registration booth along Benton (Avenue) before the parade.  We just really encourage people to come out, bring the kids or grandkids, because we have more candy than you can shake an Irish stick at."

Preceding the 2:00pm start of the parade itself, at the corner of Benton Avenue and Commercial Street, festivities begin at 12:30pm with the annual "Best-Dressed Irish Pet" contest at the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge. "It is extremely funny, and we have a variety of categories. There have been anything from llamas to pythons, to goats, sheep, pigeons, dogs, cats... as long as they're dressed in green and have a happy attitude."

If you're there just as a bystander, what can you expect to see? A large number of motorized units from the Shriners, for one thing, says Kenny Knauer. "They've kind of adopted our parade.  And there's all kinds of marching bands.  We have the Mid-Town Neighborhood Association, we have the Commercial Club, various Boy Scout and Cub Scout groups, church groups." Also on view will be plenty of vintage and antique cars. "If people are looking for a good spot to watch the parade, along Commercial Street is a good place if you're on foot." Or, suggests Kenny, you can park along Booneville Avenue in one of the numerous parking lots if the mid-50s temperatures get chilly for you.

This year's parade Grand Marshall is retiring Springfield City Manager Greg Burris--who can be seen in the Parade booklet wearing Kenny Knauer's own green stovepipe top hat "in a very rakish manner." When Burris's name was suggested, Kenny told the committee, "There's the guy you need--he's got the right attitude and he likes the parade already.  And when we asked him to join us, he didn't hesitate a minute--he jumped right in. So he's going to be in his glory, riding in a green vintage Cadillac convertible."

The parade lasts two hours, more or less.  As the parade path winds south through downtown and Park Central Square, the crowd just keeps growing, says Kenny Knauer. It ends at Elm Street and South Avenue. "But don't give up, because that's not the end of the parade. Then we march to Patton Alley Pub--they are the official/unofficial parade headquarters for the committee." It's the site of the post-parade party and award ceremony, complete with Irish food and drink, and music provided by Sparky and the Awesome Tuesdays. Winners in various parade categories will receive handmade trophies created by Terry Bloodworth of Springfield Hot Glass Studio. Also, "we give cash awards out in a number of the bigger categories."

Kenny could hardly contain his excitement as we were doing this live interview Friday morning. "It's hard to just remain in my chair as we speak--I'm already ready to go, and it's only Friday!" He also gave a shout-out to this year's parade committee, saying "they've gone above and beyond the usual. We had less numbers of people helping this year, but we did a lot of good work. Tim Griese gets a lot of the credit--he's head of the parade committee this year; David Trippe, of course, one of the co-founders of the parade; and Brian Weeks."

You can find information about the parade at http://www.springfieldstpatsparade.com.