Wearing o’ the green

The 27th annual St. Patrick’s Parade, the longest continual running St. Patrick’s Day parade in Alaska, got off to a cloudy, slushy start Saturday but with smiles as bright as the parade in the Big Apple.


And while the Soldotna parade may not have the economic boost that the New York parade does it nevertheless rings the cash register.

“I’m mostly Irish,” says the parade’s founder Mike Sweeney.

“Back then I was heavily into the Chamber’s merchant committee where we figured out new things to grow the local economy and I suggested the parade. There were about five of us on the committee at that time so we gave it a go and I believe we had all of five floats back in ’91,” said Sweeney in an interview for the Dispatch.

While many of the recent parades have found the luck of the Irish in Alaska featuring clement sunny days, March break-up in Alaska ruled the day this year. Even so, an unofficial record number of floats and spectators were believed to have turned out for the 2018 event on the last Saturday of spring break.

While many families were returning from the beaches of Hawaii or the casinos of Las Vegas, the Alaskans of Alaskans and the Irish of the Irish donned their silliest of green garb brought pets, racing cars kiddos of all ages to march and collect candies along the parade route.

“We sure had a lot of fun!” exclaimed Soldotna Chamber CEO Shannon Davis.

“The unorganized organization is part of the fun,” added Andy Heuiser, events coordinator for the Chamber, “It’s a fun group and they know how to deal with organized chaos pretty well.”

A great-grandmother who has never missed being in a parade with family and farm animals is JoAnne Martin of the Diamond M Ranch.

“At 83 I’ve never missed a parade and I plan on being in a lot more. I’ve been here for the 4-H program but don’t confuse the 4-H shamrock with the Irish shamrock. The 4-H one has 4 leafs and stands for Head, Heart, Hands &Health and while leprechauns are known to make some mischief, 4-H kids are known to make wonderful adults and learn great life skills,” said Martin.

While rumor had it that many leprechaun traps were set at various homes and establishments the only “true green” leprechaun that was sighted Saturday was Sweeney himself.

“Now I don’t know about that,” he said, “Leprechaun’s are not known to work and I own the working man’s store, so I don’t know where they get their pot of gold, but they know where to go for the brands they know I’m sure.”