World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade
The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which is held in Hot Springs (Garland County), began in 2003 when a group of Hot Springs residents gathered in a pub on the city’s Bridge Street and began musing about ways to capitalize on the fact that the street had been named in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! during the 1950s and 1960s as the world’s shortest street in everyday use. The idea of holding a celebration on the ninety-eight-foot street in the heart of the historic city’s downtown area arose, and the approaching St. Patrick’s Day holiday emerged as an appropriate time to capitalize on Bridge Street’s reputation.
The First Ever First Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held on March 17, 2004, with an open invitation for gag parade entries turning out more than fifty groups, including seventeen marching Irish wolfhounds, assorted marching bands, a marcher who boasted he would cover the “entire parade route while holding his breath,” and other similar farcical groups. More than 2,000 revelers turned out to watch the first parade and take part in the following pub crawl among downtown bars. An all-green fireworks display was detonated from the roof of a Bridge Street building. The Hot Springs fire marshal has estimated that, by 2016, the crowd had grown to nearly 30,000 people.
Subsequent years saw more entries and came to include a group of 100 marching “Irish” Elvis Presley impersonators, a group of corpulent dancers who called themselves “The Lards of the Dance,” and the World’s Largest Leprechaun. One entry was a fire department hook-and-ladder truck that stretched nearly the full length of the ninety-eight-foot parade route.
The annual parade came to include celebrity grand marshals such as George Wendt (who played Norm Peterson on the TV series Cheers); entertainer Pauly Shore; actress Bo Derek; television actor John Corbett (who starred in Northern Exposure); actor Kevin Bacon; Mike Rowe (host of the Dirty Jobs television show); John Ratzenberger (who was Wendt’s Cheers co-star); actor Jim Belushi; auto racing legend Mark Martin, and television actor Mario Lopez. The parade added “official starters” as an additional attraction in 2014. They have included actor Gary Busey and Tim “Mountain Man” Guraedy of the Duck Dynasty TV series.
The parade’s main sponsor is Visit Hot Springs, the city’s convention and visitors bureau; it is governed by a board of volunteers from businesses and organizations in the city. Organizers say the original intention was to use the parade to focus attention on Hot Springs and the city’s reputation as a great place to have fun. Publicity about the parade has spread to major media outlets throughout the United States, as well as media in Canada and Ireland.
In early 2024, it emerged that the village of Adamsville, Rhode Island, had, for the previous three years, been hosting a St. Patrick’s Day parade that was eighty-nine feet in length, nine feet shorter than the one in Hot Springs. The Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, however, had already trademarked the name of their parade. Organizers in Adamsville challenged Hot Springs to shorten their own parade, offering a donation to charity should they do it.
For additional information:
Leigh, James. “Village in R.I., Spa City, Battle on Parade Length.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 8, 2024, p. 2B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2024/feb/08/rhode-island-village-hot-springs-battle-for/ (accessed February 8, 2024).
World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. http://www.shorteststpats.com/ (accessed August 26, 2023).
Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau
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