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Archive for Monday, March 18, 2002

Colorful floats, sunny skies draw thousands to the streets

March 18, 2002

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An eclectic mix of revelers turned out Sunday for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade.

Thousands of people lined Massachusetts Street to see the parade, which had a mix of fire trucks, policeman, people in scuba suits, a ship, miniature ponies, lowrider cars with hydraulics and Scottish bagpipers.

Phil Bradley, chairman of the St. Patrick's Day Committee, said he thought at least 10,000 people thronged Massachusetts Street and Locust Street in North Lawrence to see the 15th annual parade.

"It was huge this year," he said. "I think it was one of our most attended parades, if not the most attended parade."

Proceeds from all this year's St. Patrick's Day activities, including the parade, will benefit the Infant-Toddler Coordinating Council.

The Sandbar, 117 E. Eighth St., was a repeat winner for best commercial float. The hurricane-themed float tells the "story" of the bar, manager Dave Johanning said. As the story goes, a hurricane caused a boat to wreck on a sandbar populated by mermaids, pirates and sea creatures.

Employees at the bar spent about three weeks putting the float together and coordinating dance moves to perform on the ship as it rolled through the parade.

"It's a lot of fun," Johanning said. "It's a good time to get together and do something outside of work."

Johanning said they were motivated by the response of people who come to the parade.

"Just seeing all the kids and having fun  it was a blast," he said. "We have a good time every year. And it keeps getting bigger and bigger. We enjoy doing it, and it's always for a good cause."

The day was bittersweet for the Rooney family, which has members in Louisburg and Lawrence.

Sunday was the first time in 15 years that their float, The Rooney Clan of County Down, did not roll down the parade route. Dad Bruce Rooney had back surgery last October, ruling out any float activities this year.

But the family had fun, cheering from the sides and wearing all things green, such as neon green wigs, green and white hats, and shamrock sunglasses.

"They could not pick a better day," Rooney said about the weather. "Sometimes, we've been afraid our float would blow off the bridge into the river."

Rooney said the family float, a 16-foot flatbed trailer pulled by a pickup, would be back next year.

Marlena Durflinger and her son, Josh, spray-painted their hair green to celebrate their Irish heritage.

Josh, 11, said he enjoyed watching the parade.

"I like it because there's a lot of interesting floats and people put a lot of hard work into them," he said.

Bruce Meyer, Lawrence, and Beth Riddell, Kansas City, Kan., had some of the best seats in the parade. At 11:30 a.m., they parked Meyer's truck in the 800 block of Massachusetts Street in preparation for the 2 p.m. celebration.

During the parade, they set up folding chairs in the truck bed.

For both, it was their first time watching the annual event.

"It was perfect," Riddell said. "We had a great time, and it was really fun."

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