June 20th, 2024

St. Patrick’s Day parade pays homage to past

By Lethbridge Herald on March 17, 2022.

Herald photo by Al Beeber People walk in the annual Shortest St. Paddy’s Day Parade in the World in Carmangay Thursday.

Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald

The shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world lived up to its billing Thursday in Carmangay.

Quicker than it takes to chug a pint of green beer, a boisterous group walked the parade route a block from the village office to a vacant lot where the Grange Hotel stood until it burned down in 2021. Starting promptly at 11 a.m., the parade was over by about 11:01, give or take 30 seconds.

Begun about 35 years ago by the late Jim O’Conner who was the only person participant the first year, the parade is a staple of southern Alberta St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

But with the Grange destroyed because of a cannabis grow-op in one of the rooms, the tradition of imbibing green beer and consuming Irish stew had to be done at the nearby curling club.

In a brief ceremony where the Grange once stood, long-time parade celebrant Bob Petersen recited a poem paying homage to O’Conner and the hotel before cracking open a cold canned beverage.

“Here’s to Jim, he can’t be here today, but I’m sure his spirit is here to stay;

Here’s to the Grange, it stood for 110 years and when it burned down, it brought me to tears;

Seems strange that neither are here so I think I’ll just stand here and have a beer,” Petersen said to huge applause.

Petersen said festivities were cut short in 2020 when the provincial government implemented its COVID-19 restrictions at 3 p.m. when people were still celebrating.

O’Conner’s daughter Tammy Fitzgerald said her dad “just decided one year he was just out marching down the street all by himself and it took off from there.”

Leading the parade were Patty and Kelly Greene, driving an older green Ford-150 half-ton affectionately known as the Paddy Wagon. Several dozen people were lined up along the short parade route watching the event on a sunny warm morning.

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