DAILY DIRT: St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Arkansas might be nation’s most entertaining — and shortest

st pats

Daily Dirt for Sunday, March 17, 2024

Will Oli Marmol still be Cardinals manager the next time St. Patrick’s Day rolls around? … Welcome to today’s three thoughts that make up Vol. 896 of The Daily Dirt.

1. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Even if you’re not Irish, St. Patrick’s Day is always a lot of fun. Lot of green. Lot of leprechauns. You know the drill.

But have you ever wondered how this holiday is celebrated in other parts of the country? Well, here are three of the best medal-worthy examples I could find:

Gold medal:The world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade may also be the quirkiest. Across 98-foot-long Bridge Street in Hot Springs, Ark., labeled in the 1940s as the “Shortest Street in the World” by Ripley’s Believe It or Not, annually marches a cast of unusual characters that has included the famous San Diego Chicken, Irish Elvis impersonators and the Lards of the Dance, a troupe of middle-aged Irish dancers.The celebration has also included the world’s shortest wedding ceremony at under a minute, as well as a “Romancing the Stone” competition, in which the parade-goer with the most original kiss for an impromptu Blarney stone wins a $100 prize. Also making an appearance in years past was Dr. Albert Habeeb, who in 2008 was the self-proclaimed “World’s Oldest Leprechaun” at age 95.

Silver medal: The Nebraska town of O’Neill, located at the intersection of Route 281 and Highway 20, is home of the world’s largest shamrock, a large green clover painted in the middle of the road. This immediately reminds visitors that this community of 39,000 is the official Irish capital of Nebraska.

John O’Neill, the town’s namesake, was a native Irishman and veteran of the Civil War and strong proponent of Irish immigration to the Plains state. He wrote pamphlets and distributed them to immigrants working the Appalachian coal mines, heralding the virtues of owning and farming tracts of land.

Each St. Patrick’s Day, the town celebrates its Irish roots with an odd array of festivities that include a hypnotist, fish fry and Children’s Literature Festival featuring the reading of Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham.” 

Bronze medal: St. Patrick’s Day officially begins in New London, Wis., when the Shamrock Club, a group of residents dressed as leprechauns, sneakily changes highway signs to read New Dublin, an idea that received laughs and eventual city council approval more than 30 years ago. 

Although German immigrants originally settled the town, an influx of Irish residents in the 19th century forever changed the town’s traditions. Now, every March, corned beef and cabbage appear on the menu at local restaurants.

The annual parade draws 30,000 people to the town of 7,000. In addition to a staged Finnegan’s Wake (a shout-out to the final work of Irish author James Joyce, in which a green-painted hearse drives down the parade route), bagpipe players and the high school band march down the street, following a trail of shamrocks painted on the pavement. The grand finale is “Irish Fest,” which brings Celtic bands to the town to perform for visitors.

2. Irish artists have reached No. 1 on 11 occasions on the Billboard album charts over the past 34 years.

U2 has seven of those No. 1 albums, followed by Sinead O’Connor (2), Hozier (1) and Niall Horan (1).

(Note: Dexys Midnight Runners from the 1980s was not an Irish group, despite popular belief. The band was from Britain. But we will be forever grateful to the group for its one huge hit, “Come On Eileen,” which to this day still sounds like one of the best Irish songs ever.)

3. OK, enough about St. Patrick’s Day.

We now turn our attention to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Oli Marmol recently was awarded with a two-year extension as the manager of the Cardinals. Was it deserved?

Thomas Gauvain on redbirdrants.com writes: The Cardinals were projected to finish the 2023 season with a record of 92-70 by ESPN, 87-75 by The Sporting News, and 85-77 by Fangraphs. That gives them an average win-loss record of 88-74 by preseason projections, not a bad record by any means, but a far cry from the team’s actual 71-91 finish.

Instead of finishing close to 90 wins a year ago, the Cardinals surpassed 90 losses for the first time since 1990, ending up 20 games below .500 and winding up in last place in a middling division.

Hmmm … a two-year managerial extension, you say?

Steve Thought O’ The Day – I’m sure Oli Marmol is a wonderful human being, but I’ll be mildly shocked if he actually fulfills both years of that contract augmentation. 

Steve Eighinger writes daily for Muddy River News. Most of Cardinal Nation was NOT happy about the Marmol extension.

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