Scott McClard and Dona Pettey will reign as king and queen over the First Ever 16th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade® on March 17 in Hot Springs.
Both McClard and Pettey were born and reared in Hot Springs.
McClard, who co-owns and helps operate the legendary 90-year-old McClard’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant at 505 Albert Pike, confesses he didn’t think the little parade would ever see its second annual edition, much less its 16th annual showing.
He recalls: “I seem to remember going down to Bridge Street in 2003. I went and watched; there were not very many people in the crowd. I thought to myself, ‘Welp, this will be the last year for THIS little shindig . . . drink up.”
Now, 16 years later, McClard will reign as King of that little shindig, which now attracts upward of 30,000 revelers to the 98-foot Bridge Street for the world-famous little celebration of all things Irish.
Pettey, who owns the world-famous Ohio Club with her husband, Mike, attended her first Shortest Parade in 2007, but her best memory of it came in 2014, when “I had the privilege of performing in the Allstars Band after the parade on the Bridge Street stage. We were able to get that year’s parade grand marshal, Jim Belushi, to perform some of his hits with us. He actually came back to see if he could do a few more songs with us. Not a hard question to answer. What a tremendous amount of talent was on that stage.”
Before the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade® gave him something to do each March 17, McClard says, he used to celebrate the day by “wearing green and knocking back a pint . . . or two . . . wit’ me mates. Also, I’d just break out with an Irish accent randomly.”
Asked if he has any Irish ancestry, McClard said, “Yes I have Irish ancestors, but a lot more Scottish than Irish. Let’s don’t get into this too deep; this is how parking lot fights start.” “I was extremely lucky”, McClard said, “to be there when the guy they originally picked to be this year’s parade king fell over dead, and they looked at me and said, ‘HEY YOU — wanna be king?’ Seriously, I’m extremely excited and flattered. The list of kings is very prestigious, and I’m honored to be among them.”
“My mother Carla Groves Chitwood, was — and still is — my hero,” Pettey said. “I know she would be so proud for me to have been chosen for this prestigious role as queen of this famous parade.
“It’s always a blast dressing up in my shiny, blingy, festive green attire for this parade! Last year Mike and I were a part of a group of 10 couples who made the trip over to Ireland. We got to visit so many of the great cities and partake of the traditions of the Irish. One of the biggest highlights of this trip was traveling to the original town where the Blarney Stone resides. We climbed a castle to ‘kiss the stone.’”
Pettey said her maternal grandfather, Jim Groves, was Irish, “so visiting Ireland was more meaningful for me. We also passed the home of the late great Art Rooney founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers (my most favorite team) So I come by it honestly as a Super Steelers fan.”
“My favorite part of the parade is seeing all the excitement in the kids and grown ups’ eyes,” she said, “along with all the stars that are a major part of this parade. Those ingredients are what make this event so special.”
“I’m looking forward to being crowned queen” by [parade grand marshal] Ralph Macchio,” Pettey said. ”I remember watching him as the ‘Karate Kid’ when I was a youngster. Also [official parade starter, Stephen] tWitch [Boss], who I followed on the show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and now love watching him on the Ellen DeGeneres show. It’s always a fun time visiting with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders too.”
Asked if she had any “words of wisdom” to impart to her parade “subjects,” she said, “Yes: Try each day to be good to one another and help those around you become better human beings. Also enjoy every minute of life and don’t take anyone or anything for granted. This Parade is a special time to come together for one reason, to be happy and share in the festivities. I love my hometown and am proud for all the incredible recognitions we get from all over this country. It’s definitely a great time to celebrate in some of the Irish traditions.”
In addition to Macchio and tWitch, this year’s parade will feature the World’s Largest Potato on Wheels: a four-ton Big Idaho® Potato and its accompanying truck and trailer — at a combined 72 feet long — which will almost fill the length of Bridge Street.
“Along with the other great events we’ve added for 2019, the First Ever 16th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade® will be the most spectacular one we’ve ever seen,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs and one of the founders of the parade.
The three-day parade weekend in Hot Springs also includes the First Ever First Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Zero K® footrace at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 15.
“Our race will cover a course that is 299 feet long, one foot shorter than the granddaddy of all Zero K runs — the Wacky Florida Keys Cow Key Channel Bridge Run that is 300 feet long,” Arrison said. “Of course, that still makes our Zero K three times longer than the parade itself.”
“The St. Patrick’s Zero K is designed for athletes who do not like to get up early or break a sweat,” Arrison said.
On Saturday, March 16, there will be a free live concert by Smash Mouth at the Bridge Street stage where Bridge Street, Malvern Avenue, Broadway and Convention Boulevard intersect.
There will be another free live concert by Three Dog Night on Sunday after the parade.
This will mark the second year in a row that two free concerts have been held in conjunction with the internationally known parade, which annually attracts 30,000 celebrating fans to the downtown historic district.