HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Arkansas — Funnyman Jim Belushi will be there. Mountain Man from “Duck Dynasty” will be there. The Texas Tortilla Queens are coming back. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are coming back.
The First Ever 11th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade will light up the 98-foot Bridge Street route March 17, and it promises to continue its string of annual zaniness-fests into a new decade.
“We’ll elevate craziness to a new level,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs and one of the founders of the little parade that has attracted worldwide attention to Hot Springs. “The Hot Springs All-Star Review Band will provide free musical entertainment for a street dance after the parade, and folksinger/poet Rickey Pittman will entertain before the 6:30 p.m. start of the parade.
Since its beginning as the idea of some Hot Springs residents enjoying an adult beverage in 2003, The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade has grown to an annual magnet for about 30,000 fun-lovers from across America drawn to its international reputation as the place to have fun on this most Irish of days.
Hot Springs’ celebration of a week of Irish fun will actually begin on Wednesday, March 12, with a wreath-laying at the Calvary Cemetery gravesite of John King, an Irish immigrant who received two Congressional Medals of Honor and who passed away while being treated at the Army & Navy Hospital in Hot Springs. The wreath-laying will be held at 10 a.m. The public is invited to attend.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will begin at 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 17, with the annual Arkansas Blarney Stone Kissing Contest at the Arkansas Blarney Stone in front of the Convention Center. Cash awards will be given to the most creative “romancing the stone” competitors.
The parade annually includes 40 marching units, floats, dancers, singers, performance artists, the International Order of the Marching Irish Elvi (50 green-clad Elvis impersonators), the Chain of Toilets and assorted crazies.
This year’s entries already include the Lyon College Pipe Band, St. Patrick Driving the Snakes From Ireland, the new parade mascot, 9-foot-all Lucky the Leprechaun, the Spa Fever Irish Baton Twirling Girls, the Big Kahuna-chaun float, the Irish Berdan Green Sharpshooters Civil War re-enactors, the Luck of the Belly Rags belly dancers, and the Fun City Irish Chorus.
“We only permit 40 units in the parade,” said Leysa Lowery of Visit Hot Springs, “and 20 have already signed up. Those who want to enter a unit must get in touch with Visit Hot Springs at 501-321-2027 as soon as possible.”
The full schedule for St. Patrick’s Day:
Monday, March 17
• 4:30 p.m. — Blarney Stone Kissing Contest – Arkansas Blarney Stone
• 5:30 p.m. — Festivities Kick off with special guests at Bridge Street and Broadway
• 6:25 p.m. — Official measuring of the parade route – Bridge Street
• 6:30 p.m. — First Ever 11th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Bridge Street
• 7:30 p.m. — Free post-parade concert by the Hot Springs All-Star Review Band – Bridge Street Stage
The parade itself, which covers the 98-foot length of Bridge Street, always features zany fun provided by the dozens of floats, bands, marchers, Irish Elvis Presley impersonators, Irish wolfhounds, dancing Irish belly dancers and other participants.
Over its 10-year span, the parade has brought worldwide attention to Hot Springs and has received numerous awards:
In 2013, the parade was awarded the Event of the Year Award from the Arkansas Festivals and Events Association in Little Rock.
Also in 2013, the Discovery Channel named it as No. 1 among Seven Crazy St. Patrick’s Day Events Worldwide.
• In addition, the parade has been recognized worldwide with numerous international awards:
• In 2005 it was No. 1 in Off the Beaten Path Parades awarded by The Irish Echo
• In 2008 it was named among the Top Ten St. Patrick’s Day Parades in the U.S. by AOL
• In 2009 it was named the Quirkiest St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Earth by Smithsonian Magazine
• In 2009 it was named No. 2 in its list of Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the Southeast by the Atlanta Journal Constitution
• For five consecutive years, it has been selected as one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society
• In 2010 it was elected No. 8 among the Top 10 Worldwide St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations by HotelsCombined.com
• In 2010 the parade received the prestigious Henry Award for Community Tourism Development from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
• In 2010 it was designated an Official Southern Travel Treasure by AAA Southern Traveler Magazine
• In 2010 the parade was elected to the list of Top 100 Events and Festivals in North America by the American Bus Association group tour association.
• In 2011 it was named the Arkansas Festival and Event Association’s 2010 Event of the Year.
• In 2011 CNN named it No. 1 among Quirky St. Patrick’s Day Parades.
• In 2011 it was named Most Unusual St. Patrick’s Day Parade by the Irish Echo.
• In 2011 Irish Central named it among the Top 5 St. Patrick’s Day Parades in America.
• In 2011 Business Insider listed it among Eight International St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations You Probably Didn’t Know About.
• The Hispanic website La Informacion.com named it No. 1 among Las Celebraciones Mas Estramboticas del Dia de San Patricio. Estramboticas means weird or extravagant.
• The 2012 parade was named among the Top 20 Events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Association.
• In 2012, the parade was named to the U.S. News Travel list of Top 10 America’s Best St. Patrick’s Day Parades.
For information contact Leysa Lowery at 501-321-2027.