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Discover Mississippi: Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade is a Jackson tradition

  • What has become a major event for the capital city, the parade had a wacky, and tacky, beginning back in the early 1980’s.

If the streets of Jackson are filled with people wearing green, it’s a sure bet it’s time for Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade & Festival in downtown Jackson. The parade and festival are scheduled for next weekend, Saturday, March 23. And yes, the actual St. Patrick’s Day is Sunday, March 17. Why not draw out the fun for as long as possible?

What has become a major event for the capital city, the parade had a wacky, and tacky, beginning back in the early 1980’s. The brainchild of the parade is Malcolm White, and as legend has it, he obtained a permit from the city, gathered up some friends, dressed in characters from Tennessee Williams plays, and strolled down Capitol Street. While it was fun, Malcolm had loftier goals. He wanted Jackson to celebrate something that was uniquely Jackson. 

White combined his love for Mardi Gras with a dose of St. Patrick’s Day to create something original. He called it Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and it morphed into one of the largest St. Paddy’s parades in the country. Now called Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival, in honor of Mal’s late brother, Hal, who was a major supporter of the annual event. 

Over the years, the parade has spawned pseudo social clubs that take advantage of the opportunity to dress in outlandish costumes and parade in the streets of Jackson. Parade clubs include TheO’Tux Society, The Krew of Kazoo, The Rude Men and more. 

Of course, Jill Conner Brown and the Sweet Potato Queens have become synonymous with the parade. She has created a nationwide phenomenon with scores of “Wannabees” coming from across the country to march in the annual parade.

Music is a huge part of the celebration and Mississippi blues artists and New Orleans-inspired brass bands help set the pace for the parade and the celebration afterwards at Hal & Mal’s. 

Walt Grayson

Each year there is a theme and grand marshal. It’s only fitting that Walt Grayson serves as the head parade poohbah, since the theme is Telling the Mississippi Story. Grayson is a long-time broadcaster and master storyteller. He started his career in radio and moved into television weather in the early 1990s. Soon he was producing his “Look Around, Mississippi” segment that became wildly popular. Grayson told the Mississippi story better than anyone, from the places we all know to the obscure and interesting places that pique curiosity, making us all want to know more. 

He currently works as a feature reporter, writer and producer at WJTV television, as well as host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. 

In a parade where everyone is king or queen for the day, both a sense of humor and a sense of place rule the day. And best of all, it’s a fundraiser for the UMC Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. 

To learn how you can see the parade, join in the fun with a float or marching krew, or boogie down at the afterparty, visit the Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival website

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