MYSTERY PAINTER: Anonymous ‘leprechaun’ marks parade route with green stripe
Generally the Tonganoxie St. Patrick’s Day parade route is decorated with a green strip of paint down the middle of Fourth Street. Ask folks who does the painting of the stripe and the response usually is “a leprechaun.”
This year, The Mirror caught up with the leprechaun.
And though he requested that his identity not be divulged, he did discuss the tradition.
He said there have been only a few years in which he and others haven’t painted a stripe down the street for the annual parade, which started in 1988 by John Lyman McCaffrey as little more than a few vehicles participating in a makeshift parade. From there, the parade has grown and has featured a Grand Leprechaun starting in 1989.
The local “leprechaun” who has had a hand in painting the green stripe said there’s no elaborate paint job, just a simple strip down the street and a few four-leaf clovers.
“The line is as straight as the leprechaun can walk,” he said. “That’s what it is.”
There usually are a few four-leaf clovers with the initials “JM” painted at Fourth and Bury streets in honor of parade founder John McCaffrey, who died in 2002 at age 73.
“John McCaffrey is the grand leprechaun in spirit every year,” he said. “Definitely in spirit.”
Though the current weather.com forecast calls for wind and a 20 percent chance of rain Saturday, Irish eyes should be smiling at the expected temperature of 75 degrees.
The local leprechaun recalled one year in which snow and then rain made it difficult to paint the street.
“There was a little bit of a line there,” he said, referring to the paint that actually stayed on the street.
This year’s parade is set to start at 10 a.m. Saturday near Fourth and Main streets and will make its way west along Fourth Street.
There will be various parade categories for entries: best bike, best dressed pet, family float and open class. There are entry fees for participants who want their entries and floats to be judged, with top entries to win prizes. But participants also can enter for free.
In addition, this year’s Grand Leprechaun is Art Hancock.
Anyone interested in purchasing a “Kiss Me I’m from Tonganoxie” T-shirt can get them Saturday outside the Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce office, 330 S. Delaware. T-shirts are $15 each or two for $25.
After the parade, various businesses will be offering St. Patrick’s Day-themed games, food and drink.
For more about what will be offered and where, see the map on page 12.
Tamara Morando, chamber board member, said cow patty bingo was popular last year and will be back again this year. A bounce house for children also is planned and is expected to be a popular attraction.
Down the street, PEO Chapter AE will have its annual corned beef and cabbage and Irish stew dinner. The meal will be 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Tonganoxie United Methodist Church, 328 E. Fourth St.
Susan Freemyer, chamber director, said it was a bonus that this year’s parade falls on St. Patrick’s Day. The community normally celebrates the holiday the Saturday before March 17 each year.
“How wonderful that is that we do not have to drive down to Kansas City, Mo., on a Saturday to have fun?” Freemyer said. “We want more people to appreciate what an outstanding value this city has for family events. It’s good clean fun, too.”
The chamber originally had plans for a 5K run and a cash cube, but those activities have been postponed and could take place at a future event. Morando said more volunteers were needed for the 5K run and resources and expenses were issues for postponing the cash cube.
For more information about the parade and Leprechaun Games, contact the chamber of commerce at (913) 845-9244.