Written by Rebecca Wilkinson
The Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade is one of the highlights of the year in Jackson, MS. Malcolm White is the creator of the parade and owner of Hal and Mal’s Restaurant. Malcolm makes the point that the parade is beyond a traditional celebration of St. Patrick’s day, but more so it is a celebration of the city of Jackson.
I was a waitress at Hal and Mal’s in the early nineties and enjoyed “working” the parade in the restaurant. With prompting from Malcolm, Lesley McHardy and Ruma Haque formed a marching group in 1999 called the Green Ladies and asked me to join. I jumped at the chance. Our group has grown over the years to include 50 woman representing teachers, nurses, artists, dentists, real estate agents, bartenders, and stay-at-home moms. On the third Saturday of every March, we unite as Green Ladies, decked out in glittery costumes and our signature green jackets.
Pre-parade preparation begins with making costumes and creating our signature throws. Our costumes reflect the designated theme that is announced at the beginning of the year by Malcolm White. Themes have encompassed everything from the Wizard of Oz and Elvis to recycling. The themes have also celebrated local celebrities such as Felder Rushing, Cat Cora, Cotton Baronich, and The New Orleans Saints. Along with the expected beads, bouncy balls, and buttons, the green lady signature throw is a coveted collaged domino that reflects the theme of the parade. Another Green Ladies ritual is collecting toys and monetary donations for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital prior to the parade. We can be spotted in full costume at Sal and Mookie’s, McDades, Hal and Mal’s, and other local business collecting donations. Personally, I think this is the best part of participating in such an awesome group.
Parade day begins with a brunch at the home of Kathy and Michael Potts. Bloody marys and mimosas grease the wheel of our raucous group of gals. We then gather in the big room at Hal and Mal’s to put the final touches on our makeup and organize our throws. The big room pre-parade ritual includes visiting with the other marching crews and reunions with out of town marchers who make it back to Jackson to participate. When one o’clock strikes we begin to make our way to the parade route. Charley Abraham, the long time parade production wizard, begins to wrangle the marching crews into place and we begin the parade. There is nothing like turning the corner on Capitol Street and seeing the crowds of thousands who show up for the celebration.
The official judges of the parade are the Bucket Heads. The identity of the Bucket Heads are disguised by, well, buckets. Marching crews usually produce a skit or a dance for the judges. Green Ladies have been known to spell out parade themed messages attached to their bloomers. By the time we get to the judges, the bloody marys and mimosas have kicked in and the spelling of the words often get out of order. It’s to be expected when such a good time is being had by all.
As we march past the museum and onto Court Street, we try to hold on to throws for the last of the masses. The parade has grown over the years and the crowd just doesn’t seem to stop. We are some of the first who arrive back at Hal and Mal’s, and it’s not over yet. The Green Ladies escort the featured New Orleans style brass band onto the stage in the big room for one of the best dance parties in town. We are all usually sore the next day from dancing, but it is worth it.
The Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade is the most fun event in our city. I am so fortunate that it has become an annual celebration and that I am involved. I can’t wait to see what the theme will be for this up coming year.
Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com.Written by Lemuria