Organizers of the March 15 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Downtown Pacific got more than they hoped for with 55-degree temperatures, bright sunshine, a hefty breeze and hundreds of parade watchers lined along St. Louis Street.
A second crowd gathered in Pacific Station Plaza where the parade ended and eight T-shirt, trinket and food booths were set up. A DJ played Irish tunes.
At about 10:30 a.m., 30 minutes before parade time, a bit of bedlam broke loose as a herd of goats got loose on the Plaza grounds and ran in all directions to get away from children running with them.
“Stop running and they will stop,” Sharon LaFarth, the goats’ owner, urged the excited kids. “They’re running because they’re scared.”
By 10 a.m., up on St. Louis Street, the town was blanketed with signs and shirts that read “On St. Patrick’s Day Everyone Is Irish,” that seemed to be everywhere.
Shop owners sat in chairs in front of their stores and car after car unloaded family members to watch the parade.
Jim Schwinkendorf, the retired BNSF executive and railroad guru, eyed the crowd with bemusement. The new parade route, which took the marchers and floats south on Elm Street, had raised his attention.
Schwinkendorf worried that some of the low-riding floats might catch on the Elm Street tracks because they rise slightly from the street level.
“I’ve programmed the emergency number of both railroads into my phone just in case,” he said.
At about 11:10 a.m., the parade reached the sea of families, clad overwhelmingly in green, at the corner of St. Louis and First streets.
No official count of the number of entries was available at press time, but the lineup included a bagpiper, upward of 100 dogs on leads, a score of motorcycles and more than a dozen horses intermingled with large floats and a dozen polished pickup trucks all emblazoned with shamrocks and bright green top hats.
The parade began with the sound of bagpipes as Matt Pantaleoni, a professional bagpiper dressed in a red and green tartan kilt with green blazer and socks, marched at the front of the column playing. He was in Pacific compliments of Alderman Carol Johnson who had seen him in St. Louis.
Grand Marshal Danny McNamee was joined by 18 McNamee family members wearing T-shirts printed with “McNamees of Little Ireland.”
Four Pacific boys came to the parade determined to like everything they saw.
“Cool bike,” Melvin Minietee yelled to a woman motorcyclist, who responded with a barely perceptible smile and nod.
Cool was the word the boys had for entry after entry. They loved every motorcycle, horse, float, marcher and every dog in the K-9 Club procession.
“Cool” Nathan Kimbrel yelled for the large white dog dyed with green and orange stripes.
Their compliments were rewarded when riders on the Tri-County Community Senior Center float into tossed them extra beads.
The quartet, ages 9 to 13, who had ridden their bikes to the parade were too busy cheering on parade participants to pick up candy.
“That is so cool,” Nick Stearns yelled to the organ grinder behind a cart pulled by a bright red locomotive powered by two pedaling Dobermans, Sky and Star, which also was compliments of Johnson who had seen the unique entry in the St. Louis Mardi Gras parade.
After passing First Street, the floats made their way across the Elm Street crossing with no problem and proceeded to the Plaza where another crowd waited.
A series of familiar and unfamiliar Irish tunes wafted over the Plaza thanks to a DJ and sound system set up on the Pacific Partnership personal stage.
Getting in the mood, families lined up to buy green shirts and hoodies, offered for sale at three different booths.
A constant line of people of all ages gathered at the Meadow Crest Farms petting and feeding pens that held two rabbits, six chickens, six goats, a donkey, and a llama, all eager to take food from the hands of anyone who offered. Outside the pen six saddled riding ponies, led by stable crew members, provided rides.
The Downtown Merchants Association sponsored the event.