No Place Like KC on St. Pat's Day

The St. Patrickís Day parade is definitely one of the most interesting days in the Kansas City calendar. Even though itís an Irish holiday, you donít have to be Irish to participate. Itís more of a reason to drag out your best green clothes and stock up on silly string to join the throng on the sidewalks of Grand Boulevard downtown. This year was cool and cloudy, perfect parade weather. People from all walks of life shoved their way up to the front ranks, jostling to fit in their lawn chairs, blankets, and coolers of soda and other St. Patrickís Day goodies. There were tons of little kids who were all generously given the choice spots along the curb, where they could see the events easily and catch any incoming candy. The adults either sat with their kids or stood up or lounged in folding chairs, chatting it up with friends or any other friendly face.

Some of the people who didnít get good seats resulted to more drastic measures. One woman happily sat on top of a ladder, and some little boys sat in a tree nearby. Some people watched from inside office buildings, or parking garages. Vendors were stationed in the side streets and parking lots along Grand, selling necklaces, confetti, hats, noisemakers, and silly string in the color of the day to eager buyers. There was one man who had a giant bouquet of balloons, some of them about three times the size of his head. They were all gloriously green and he was instantly mobbed by happy kids when he approached the mob. The big balloons went the fastest. There were also food carts, including an ice cream truck that helped pump sugar into already incredibly hyper children. The air along Grand was heavy with the smells of a parade: hot dogs and car exhaust.

As usual, the parade featured plenty of important-looking Irishmen, with their important-looking Irish beer bellies protruding and cigars hanging out of their mouths.

The parade was a long event, starting with a lone bagpipe player and ending with a police motorcade. There were a lot of government people there; city council, school board, governor, mayor, etc. They mostly sat in the traditional "Iím important and in the parade" fashion, on the back of a shiny convertible, smiling and waving, not knowing that most people didnít even know who they were. A few had trolleys or trucks, but all of them had banners with big black or green letters. There were drill teams of kids of all ages in colorful uniforms like the Marching Cobras and the Pythons, all complete with a marching band. They werenít regular marching bands, though. The dancers would stop every five minutes and dance their hearts out, the tassels on their white dancing shoes bouncing in all directions, as drums and trumpets blasted into the ears and souls of the people watching. No wonder that drill teams like that are always the most popular entries. And to celebrate the ancient relationship between Scotland and Ireland, there were plenty of bagpipes and men in kilts.

But the best part of every big parade is, of course, the floats. The theme this year was ĎThereís no place like homeí, so there were lots of Scarecrows, Dorothyís, and Wicked Witches. Some of the more creative floats had things like "Thereís no place like Rome," a float with a small coluseum and a dancing Pope with backup dancers in togas, all jerkily dancing to the oldies. That inventive float, owned by the Reardon, Burke, Soden, Lillis, McGee family, won the grand prize. Another one declared, "Thereís no face like Homer," with a giant sign showing a close-up of Homer Simpson drinking a Duff. One of the odder floats was titled "The Wiz" and had Toto on top of some sort of shack doing just that onto a very wet and probably unhappy tin man in a bathtub on the flat below him. My friends and I had the pleasure of viewing that monstrosity for ten minutes, because when it came to our place along the street, the car behind it started smoking. It took ten minutes of people milling around the convertible uselessly to get water over to the sunflower-covered convertible and move a crowd of disgruntled people (me included) away from a side street to get it out of the way. But other than that, the parade ran smoothly. The winner of the grand prize had a cool looking castle on it and was surrounded by Oz characters in Green.

Our own Mr. Conaghan, Irishman of the year, rode proudly next to his festively-wigged wife near the beginning of the parade.

Even some of the Sion faculty had prominent roles to play in the parade. Our very own "Mr. Wonderful," Mr. Dennis Conaghan, was voted the Irishman of the year. He also got the honor of sitting on the back of a convertible with his lovely green-haired wife, and even had his very own banner. But the entries of the parade that received the most attention were the firefighters and police officers. People cheered loudly whenever a man (or woman) in uniform passed by. The parade was even honored enough to contain some New York fire fighters and police officers, who opted to be here instead of the only St. Patrickís day parade in the nation thatís bigger, the one in New York. They rode on two large fire engines or walked proudly behind while people cheered them on.

Even though St. Patrickís day is a holiday about Irish Catholicism, over the years it has blossomed into a chance to simply enjoy the company of friends and family while watching a parade, even if itís just on TV. But this year it was something new all together, a chance to yet again come together as a city, and a nation, to celebrate being American. So I wasnít at all surprised that my St. Patrickís Day experience included not only green, but also red, white and blue.

Maggie Haden, sophomore