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Archive for Friday, March 14, 1997

March 14, 1997

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— The 10th annual Tonganoxie St. Patrick's Day parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Not every town of 3,100 people can boast the fourth-largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the U.S.

Actually, Tonganoxie can't, either, but that hasn't stopped organizers from making the boast.

"Yeah, we had about 30,000 people last year," said Ron Conrad, one of the wildly exaggerating organizers of the annual event. "Some say it's the second-largest, but the truth is ... it's the fourth-largest: New York, Chicago, Kansas City and Tonganoxie."

In fact, the parade -- the 10th edition of which will start at 10 a.m. Saturday -- lasts about 45 minutes and draws a few thousand people.

But that hasn't stopped Conrad and other Tonganoxie residents from having some fun.

"Have you ever seen our parade?" asked Conrad's brother, Charlie, the city fire chief. "It's tremendous."

Compared to its beginnings, the 10-year-old parade is monumental.

"About five guys got together and decided we were going to have a parade," Ron Conrad said. "We had about four pickups and a car."

Thanks in part to the enthusiasm of key organizer John L. McCaffrey, whom Ron Conrad describes as the driving force behind the parade, the event has grown to include a variety of community groups and businesses.

Boy Scouts will serve a pre-parade breakfast, and PEO clubs will dish a noon meal. Businesses will decorate their windows in hopes of earning the parade's traveling trophy for St. Patrick's Day adornment.

The "grand leprechaun" will be announced Saturday, and will lead the parade.

Following tradition, the parade will travel from the Tonganoxie Swimming Pool, 222 S. Main, west on Fourth Street to Tonganoxie Elementary School.

If you see a green line running down the middle of the street, you'll know you're there. Ron Conrad will apply the stripe about 4 a.m. Saturday, with latex paint donated by Himpel Lumber and Building Supply.

Why a green line?

"Well, you always have a green line for the St. Patrick's Day parade," Ron Conrad said. "Otherwise, you might get lost."

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