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The first parade to honour the Irish patron saint, St Patrick, was not held in Ireland. It actually took place in New York City on 17 March 1762, and since that day, cities across the United States have competed for the biggest and best St Patrick’s Day celebration.
But in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Irish pride is all about staying small. Host of the “World’s Shortest St Patrick’s Day Parade”, Hot Springs holds its annual procession on the 98ft-long Bridge Street, named the “world’s shortest street in everyday use” by Ripley’s Believe It or Not in the 1940s. In true Irish style, the idea for the parade was born over a few drinks at a Bridge Street pub in 2003, with the first marchers taking to the pint-sized street in 2004.
The title of “shortest parade” has not come easily. Over the years, other cities have jockeyed for the label, including celebrations in Maryville, Missouri, Boulder, Colorado and Pendleton, Oregon -- but the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau maintains that competing parades are either longer than their 98ft route or are just a loose gathering of people rather a proper parade.
Even if the title is still up for debate, Hot Springs can certainly claim it has one of the world’s strangest St Patrick’s Day celebrations. With participants like green-clad Elvis Presley impersonators known as “the International Order of Irish Marching Elvi” and a pickle costume-wearing family trio called the Marching Irish Pickles, the parade takes pride in ensuring that marchers and floats stay true to event’s wacky and playful spirit.
Although the route is short, 40 groups participate in the hour-long parade. A number of other events are also held on St Patrick’s Day in Hot Springs, including a Blarney Stone Kissing Contest that offers $100 to the person who can most creatively romance the 7,000-pound piece of Arkansas sandstone installed on the entrance to the convention centre.