Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival is counting down the days to this year’s event on March 27 and 28.
Founder and organizer Malcolm White spoke today about the importance of the parade, the entities who it raises funds for and the tug he feels to keep the weekend alive.
“We changed the date two years ago from the third Saturday of March to the fourth Saturday. People have complained for 36 years about the date conflicting with spring break. We would invite bands and they’d say, ‘We’re out for spring break.’ When we invited Jill (Conner Browne, THE Sweet Potato Queen) to rejoin the fun, she brought us her weekend (formerly Zippity Doo Dah Weekend in Fondren), the fourth Saturday in March.
“2020: Here’s Looking at Rude, Kid…” is complicated to some and simple to others. The theme is a combination of the line from Casablanca, the movie, and honoring our Grand Marshal, Trace Alston, head of the Rude Men. Believe it or not, I received criticism about using the word rude. ‘How dare you inject the word rude into the city when we’re trying to do positive things for our city and our people?’” they said. “Here, we are referencing a sense of humor,” White quipped.
“We’re here to raise money and awareness for Children’s of Mississippi, the only childrens’ hospital in the state available to treat all children regardless of the ability to pay.”
“Through the Community Foundation For Mississippi, a non-profit foundation and fund have been established. If someone wants to contribute to putting on this free event for 75,000 or 80,000 people in downtown Jackson, they now get a tax deduction by donating to the Community Foundation.”
“We have separated the after-party that goes on after the parade in the Commerce Street Entertainment District (between Martin’s and Hal & Mal’s) from the parade, 5k, pet parade, children’s parade and all the activities that involve families. That is under the Hal’s St. Paddy’s Foundation. When you come to this end of town, we charge a $10 cover charge. That part is a for-profit event and always has been. Both the profit and non-profit events will carry separate insurance.”
“We are tickled to be back downtown and excited about honoring Trace Alston. We have our own little theme, the Sweet Potato Queens’ Queenagers: Aging Disgracefully. We are living into that.”
“The event is important for two reasons: the Children’s Hospital and my city.
We’re grateful to Patty Peck Honda, who, for maybe ten years, has donated a car to raffle. (Tickets at foch.org). After the Friday night march from Cathead, the last key winner will be drawn at Hal & Mal’s and the car will be given away. That’s the biggest part of our fundraising.”
The second cause is what (the parade) does for our city and state. It brings not only people from all over the country to this event, but also, at this particular time in our city, it brings people in from the outlying areas that maybe have not been in to the city of Jackson in quite a while to see the wonderful things happening. I have long said, ‘If you have been to Mardi Gras or gone to Dallas or Memphis or New Orleans for any event and have not been to downtown Jackson for Hal’s St Paddy’s Parade, you can kiss… my… tiara! Shame on you! You need to come out and support this. It brings $10M to our city. Jackson is important to all of us in this area as well as to the entire state of Mississippi.”
Barricades and Insurance:
White referenced a letter he wrote last June expressing his concerns for public safety, primarily around too-few and aging barricades.
“We have worked out the difficulties regarding public safety, barricades, insurance and those details with the help of Visit Jackson, Downtown Jackson Partners, the City of Jackson, Pruitt Oil and several anonymous donors. As we evolve beyond renting barricades this year, we hope we can find a local manufacturer and have a relationship where the city can own the barricades. And, that they’ll be available not only for the Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade but for the JSU Homecoming, the City Christmas parade the Dixie National and other events to use these new barricades that we envision for 2021.”
“It’s never a bad time for civic pride,” White said. “Jill and I are committed to keeping this downtown, to making this part of Jackson’s culture and telling our story in this way. It never really was completely about St Patrick’s. It’s Jackson celebrating the rites of spring. It’s our Mardi Gras, it’s our St. Patrick’s.”
Saturday’s after parade festival will include entertainment from DJ Adam, Southern Komfort Brass Band – who will lead the parade in a second line – Nu AJC and the Envelope Pushers, the Chad Wesley Band, Mustache the Band and, from New Orleans, The Chee Weez.
Visit Jackson said, “We are proud to have this tradition of the parade continue here in Jackson. It’s a major economic driver for the city. It’s also a major opportunity to showcase what our city does best: our music, our food, our history; we have it all here and we thank Malcolm for being a part of that.”