St. Patty’s Day festivities set to start nearly 20 years after first ‘event’
Two trucks, a bullhorn and some crepe paper.
Those items were all that were needed for an impromptu "parade" down Fourth Street on March 17, 1988.
Now, 20 years later, what once was a modest procession has become a major Tonganoxie event.
This year's parade will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in downtown Tonganoxie. The parade will run west along Fourth Street from Main to Shawnee.
Kay Soetaert, who currently is a co-chair with Debbie Breuer for the event, remembers Tonganoxie's "first" St. Patrick's Day parade.
"As I recall it was a cold snowy day," Soetaert said. "Everyone who had businesses downtown wondered what those guys were doing."
Soetaert, who formally owned Legal Printing, which occupied the building where The Mirror is today, said the 1988 group included John L. McCaffrey, Eric Gambrill, Tom Norman, Ron Conrad and John Dempsey.
In one truck, someone was holding an Irish flag and in theContinued from other, McCaffrey had the bullhorn, Soetaert said.
"They made three rounds of Fourth Street yelling 'happy St. Patrick's Day' through the horn,'" Soetaert said. "And that's how it started.
"Every year after that John started planning for next St. Patrick's Day in early April."
John Lyman McCaffrey died in 2002 at the age of 73. However, the event continues to carry on in his memory, Soetaert said.
"It's John Lyman's legacy," Soetaert noted. "He started with the two trucks and it's something much bigger.
"It's due to his prodding and advertising and it's something he truly loved. It's all definitely due to him."
There's a slight connection between the impromptu parade in 1988 and this year's parade, according to Soetaert. McCaffrey instructed fellow participants to get green and white crepe paper from Pelzl's Do-It Best Hardware and V and S Variety Store.
The longtime downtown business closed its doors a few months ago. However, owner Don Pelzl will be this year's Grand Leprechaun.
Past grand leprechauns also are invited to participate in this year's festivities.
For the parade, participants are asked to check in by 9:30 a.m. at Wire Nuts at Fourth and Main.
Moderator for the parade will be John Evans II. During the parade, the Tullitrain West Pipes and Drums group will perform. The group also will be performing near First Congregational Church at Fourth and Shawnee after the parade.
Other events slated for Saturday include the Girl Scouts biscuit and gravy breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the old Ratliff Drug Store at Fourth and Bury streets. And, a corned beef and cabbage dinner will be held at First Congregational Church, sponsored by Tonganoxie PEO Chapter AT.
Chamber of Commerce director Cheryl Hanback said she hopes the weather cooperates on Saturday. Regardless, she's eager for the parade to arrive.
"I'm excited," Hanback said. "I think it's going to be a great parade."
Prize money has been donated by several businesses, including monetary awards for the best-dressed pet.
Hanback encouraged residents to dress up their pets and bring them out for the parade as well.
First State Bank and Trust and Community National Bank both are sponsors for the event, with each donating $250. Pet awards have been donated by Dressler's Dog and Horse Supply, while Evans Real Estate/Insurance is donating $100 for the best band award. Regarding float awards, B&J Country Mart is providing a $150 prize for first, Himpel Lumber $100 for second and Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse and The Royale $75 for third.
In the open awards category, The John L. McCaffrey family will donate $50, Dr. H. Grant Ritchey $30 and Midwest Carpet $20 for the top three places.
Most of all, Hanback was appreciative of the support through local businesses and people participating in the parade.
"It's wonderful," Hanback said. "The town is really supporting it. Everybody's exited about it. There's a lot of talk about it."