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HOLLENBECK: Celebrating the wearin’ o’ the green year after year

March 21, 2011

Let’s just say this is better late than never, and I’m referring to St. Patrick’s Day. Hope everyone had a happy holiday.
Because of other obligations, the regular group I’m a part of that has been attending the St. Paddy’s Day parade in Hot Springs didn’t get to be there this year.
That was a disappointment, but if you’re Irish — really Irish — you have to have fun on the holiday wherever you can find it.
For lunch that day, I joined some folks from County Clerk Freddy Burton’s office, where it was obvious from the decorations, Irish-appropriate food and everyone’s green attire that old St. Pat was being celebrated.
We were even treated to an Irish jig performed by Teri Brown and Lisa Montgomery to the accompaniment of Irish music. They did it amazingly well.
Frivolity prevailed, which is what St. Pat’s Day is all about.
I love that since Irish heritage runs through my blood. Literally as well as emotionally.
I hail from a long line of Parnells — including my great-grandparents who came to this land from the Emerald Isle —  and I can say unabashedly that I love St. Paddy’s Day. And, of course, there’s the red hair that helps me wave my Irish flag.
I always dreamed to be in New York to attend the big parade or —  the dream of dreams —  the one in Dublin on this holiday. Doubt if I ever get there, but nearby Hot Springs has been a great alternative.
Truly, the Hot Springs “First Ever Eighth Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade” was high on my list of wanna-be-there events this year. You can count on thousands of people descending on that small area of the Spa city where fun, frivolity and everything green converge for this event.
I won’t forget the year that Freddy, with granddaughter Paisley in tow, lost whatever inhibitions he has and hitched a ride, uninvited, on a float in the event. The two of them, with the beauty pageant “light-bulb” wave in action, rode for about half a block.
The rest of us didn’t know this was happening and I found myself thinking, “The man on that float looks so much like Freddy.” Then it hit me. Standing next to Freddy’s grandson, I shouted, “Hey, Jax! There’s your Pappy and little sister!”
Historic Bridge Street in downtown Hot Springs, the official parade route, is historic on its own. It became famous in the 1940s when Ripley’s Believe It or Not designated it “The Shortest Street in the World.” Having earned this distinction, the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau wisely deemed it the most logical location for this novel parade.
Embellished with green fireworks, Elvis look-alikes (who are part of the International Order of Elvi) and Irish belly dancers, the parade takes on a Mardi Gras-like atmosphere because the beads and blarney (and a lot of other things) fly with abandon. It’s just smaller and safer.
The parade included the The Marching Irish Pickles, who have a local connection.
Taking part for the fifth consecutive year, dressed as green pickles, were Vicki Fritz of Hot Springs Village as Grandma O’Gedney (named after Gedney, the Minnesota State Pickle); Hannah Grace Fritz of Benton as Minnesota Cuke; and Abby Fritz of Benton as Baby Baby Dill.
The girls are the daughters of Scott and Jennifer Fritz of Benton and students at Howard Perrin Elementary School.
For this year’s parade, Grandma O’Gedney wore two different colored “Crocs” to make each granddaughter feel good, since one was wearing kelly green on her tootsies and the other was wearing lime green.
Not wanting to choose one granddaughter’s choice over the other, Vickie, being politically correct as well as kind, chose one of each color. I know they had fun.
St. Patrick’s Day started as a celebration of the the patron saint of Ireland, who is credited with bringing Christianity to that country 1,600 years ago.
Here in this country, our celebrations are uniquely American. The holy day is associated with parties, parades, leprechauns, green beer and Irish whiskey.
I’ll still go for iced tea or Dr Pepper, but I promise that I have just as much fun as any green-beer-drinking person you’ll find in this country or in Ireland.
Jewish folks part frequently with the expression “Next year in Jerusalem,” but here’s mine: “Next year in Hot Springs.”

Lynda Hollenbeck is associate editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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