Over the years, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hot Springs has grown from a small community event started among friends in what was ironically a German restaurant (now known as Steinhaus Keller) to a nationwide spectacle.
The parade is on Hot Springs’s 98-foot-long Bridge Street, the world’s shortest working street. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen, and its uniqueness has attracted the masses over the past 20 years. However, it has continued packing copious amounts of ridiculous fun into a short stretch.
To keep up to speed with the fame garnered by the parade, celebrity Grand Marshals and Parade Starters only get better year after year. (Not to discount anyone who came and made our short parade a raging good time. Click here to find the complete list of grand marshals and parade starters.) Here’s a look back at some of the guests who blew my mind.
In 2004, the very first grand marshal for the parade was a local celebrity. Dick Kelley was the stepfather of former President Bill Clinton. Celebrated among the locals, Hot Springs is Clinton's "boyhood home." Although Kelley passed away in 2007, the legacy left of him being at the inception of the parade is heartwarming.
In 2007, I’d like to think when the parade scored Mario Lopez as its grand marshal in its fourth year, this is when it officially “arrived” on the national radar. And yes, I am talking about the Saved-by-the-Bell-Dancing-With-the-Stars-King-of-Hallmark-Holiday-Movies Mario Lopez.
St. Pat’s hit the ground running four years after Lopez with notable celebrity grand marshals. In 2010, Bo Derek hit our short street as grand marshal leading to the scoring of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Sex and the City’s John Corbett not once but twice, in 2011 and in 2013. (I am also remiss to leave out the favorite deep cut starring Corbett and Hillary Duff, Raise Your Voice.)
And in 2016, Kevin Bacon cut loose footloose while tearing up our town at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. With an icon as notable as Bacon, it seemed almost impossible to top, at least for the next few years.
That is until 2017 brought Alfonso Ribeiro; we’re talking Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Or, some of you may know him as Alfonso from Dancing with the Stars. This energetic, loving guest surprised everyone and made for another unforgettable St. Pat's.
2018 brought the beloved 90s heartthrob Joey Fatone of NSYNC. And, speaking of heartthrobs, Ralph Macchio, the Karate Kid himself, marched our 98-foot-long Bridge Street in 2019.
In 2022, we had the first full-size parade after the COVID-19 Pandemic. Cheech Marin (the partner in the comedy duo Cheech and Chong) took the place that was supposed to be his before the world closed in 2020.
Parade starters did not begin until 2014, but they proved to be a valuable addition to the parade, as it was another reason to add more celebrities.
Mountain Man, A.K.A. Tim Guaredy from the Louisiana-based television series Duck Dynasty, was the first parade starter in 2014. Since Duck Dynasty was in its prime, Mountain Man was a southern favorite and crowd-pleaser.
In 2018 Napoleon Dynamite himself came to make the parade that much more fun, quirky and outrageous. John Heder marching Bridge Street is a day not soon to be forgotten. As with the year Twitch came.
In 2019 the St. Pat’s parade had the incredible opportunity to host Stephen “tWitch” Boss, who unfortunately passed away in December 2022. After his passing, the masses celebrated Twitch as a "light" in the world, and Hot Springs got to experience that light firsthand in 2019.
Accompanying Cheech in 2022 during the first parade post-pandemic, Danny Trejo also replaced the parade starter that was supposed to be his in 2020. Having Cheech and Trejo march Bridge was a full circle moment to celebrate what had returned.
Not only does the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebrate those famed worldwide, but it also celebrates the community that created it.
Since 2009 two locals have been voted in as the St. Patrick's Day King and Queen, an honor bestowed upon those who serve as a beating heart in the Hot Springs community. The pair march down Bridge Street dressed as green royalty.
All hail the International Order of the Irish Elvi. Dr. Randy Hill founded this local troupe. He and his "merry band of friends" have been in the parade from the very start. The group members change every year since all are welcome to walk — however, you must have the requisite Elvis costume. Long may they reign in all their glory, glory, hallelujah.
One more major local element would be that of the leprechauns. (Because you know what they say: it’s not St. Pat’s in Hot Springs without the world’s tallest leprechaun or the world’s only leprechaun wrangler.)
Started by the late Dick Antoine, the world’s tallest leprechaun is a staple to the parade. In 2007 Monte Everhart joined Dick. 2021 was Dick’s last parade before his passing in 2022, and in 2022 Stephan Inman-Crawley and Roger Scott were brought on.
Monte's wife, Kim Everhart, has been deemed the "World's only Leprechaun Wrangler among the leprechauns." (And in 2009 was the first queen of the St. Patrick's Day Parade!)
The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade revolves around the promise of “for better or worse.”
For example, two couples have made the life promise for better or worse on Bridge Street. That's right, Leysa and David Lowery, and Cheryl and James Brassfield wed amid the St. Pat's Parade.
Also, the parade has made its life promise for better or worse. When the COVID-19 Pandemic rolled around, and everything stopped, the parade found a way to march on.
The planned parade was canceled to the public when the world shut down in March 2020. However, parade organizers Bill Solleder and Alexis Hampo had a two-person parade to keep the tradition alive. What historically brought thousands, the party of two kept the heart of the parade still beating.
Although hopeful the following year, 2021 didn't shape up for the traditional St. Pat's on Bridge gathering. However, an impromptu party partied on nonetheless. In an unannounced flash mob-style parade, local health workers served as a group of grand marshals. Quirky details of this parade kept the heart of the World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade alive through one more trying year. For instance, the year the world's tiniest potato rode on a toy truck, replacing the world's largest potato that previously appeared at the parade.
And now, this March, we are here celebrating 20 years of whacky, incredible, monumental fun on Bridge Street in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Come dressed in your green on March 17 and check out the 98 feet of amusement the St. Pat’s big 2-0 will bring, including Justin Moore as the Grand Marshal, Christopher McDonald as the Parade Starter, and live performances from Village People and The Molly Ringwalds.
Cassidy is a Hot Springs-based freelance journalist. In her free time, she enjoys playing games, skating, walking her dog Murphey and spending time with her nieces and nephews. Cassidy aspires to create a positive impact with her writing, be it fun or informative (or both!).