World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade is out of luck

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ShortestStPats.com

Ralph Macchio, famous for acting in three Karate Kid movies, was the parade grand marshal in 2019.

The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade did not get any luck this year. The annual event in historic downtown Hot Springs is cancelled due to social distancing restrictions put in place by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

 

“Even if the pandemic had ended today, there wouldn’t be enough time,” Bill Solleder, director of marketing for Visit Hot Springs, said.

 

While many state-ordained social distancing guidelines have been lifted, Solleder and his coworkers had to decide about a year in advance whether or not the 2021 parade would go on. This year’s parade was cancelled to avoid the disappointment that ensued after the highly anticipated parade of 2020 was called off.

 

“It was sad and difficult to call everyone and cancel,” Solleder said, “It sucked.”

 

Solleder manages the logistics of the parade, including the lineup and pacing as floats make their way down Bridge St.

 

“40 highly creative floats strut their stuff down Bridge Street,” Solleder said.

 

Each year, a celebrity is granted the ceremonial title of “grand marshal.” Those who hold this title typically walk or ride down the street first. Famous stars such as Joey Fatone, Kevin Bacon, Alfonso Ribeiro, Mark Martin, and Mario Lopez have previously participated as grand marshals.

 

“Everyone who comes to watch the parade has the best time of their life,” Solleder said.

 

According to ShorestStPats.com, the first ever World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade occurred in 2004. The previous year, an Arkansan of Irish descent shared a few pints of malted beverage with some friends on Bridge St. The conversation that night developed the idea to incorporate the street’s short 98-foot length into an Irish holiday associated with a short mythical being — the leprechaun.

 

A few thousand people gathered to view that first parade. In 2019, the number of attendants grew to over 30,000. Folks from all over the world travel to Hot Springs to enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day’s festivities, including the concert a couple hours after the parade. A musical performance ensues on Bridge St. by artists and bands such as Blues Traveller and Smashmouth.

 

“Enjoy the holiday anyway,” Solleder said. “Do the ‘kiss me I’m Irish’ from six feet away.”

 

Hot Springs and surrounding areas gain a lot of tourism and press coverage from the eventwhich brings revenue to the community. Unfortunately, this fun money-making tradition will not be found at the end of the 2021 rainbow.

 

“I am excited to make up for lost years in 2022,” Solleder. “The parade is already special; this next one will be extra, extra special.”