Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade, Sweet Potato Queens reunite
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — They will march again in the Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade — sparkly dresses, big hairdos and all.
Parade founder Malcolm White and Jill Conner Browne, queen of the Sweet Potato Queens, said at a press conference Wednesday that her flamboyant crew will return for the event that draws thousands to Jackson every March.
“We’ve talked about it for a while, and I’m thrilled it has worked out,” said White. “There was all this talk that Jill and I had a spat, didn’t get along anymore — and that was never true.”
White also revealed another change coming in 2019: The parade will be on the fourth Saturday in March instead of the third.
“I’ve already had one person call and say, ’I booked a trip for the fourth Saturday because the parade was always on the third Saturday,” White said. “That’s when I knew we needed to hurry and get the word out about the change.”
White said several reasons prompted the switch: ”(The parade) historically fell on the week of spring break. I’ve had people complain to me about that for years and years. People say, ‘We took the kids to the beach’ or ‘We’d love to have our marching band there from our school, but it’s spring break.’
“Well, no more excuses, my friends. It’s now the fourth weekend (March 23) and we expect lots of marching bands, lots of families and lots of spring breakers with new tans to come and join us.”
The theme for 2019 will be “A Magical Mystery Tour.”
“It is a Beatles theme for those of you under 30,” White said with a smile.
Mississippi chef and restaurateur Robert St. John will serve as grand marshal. Fittingly, he is a huge Beatles fan.
Music promoter Arden Barnett said a Beatles tribute band will perform sometime that week, along with other acts. “The specifics will come later,” Barnett said.
Also, the “Sweet Potato Queens” play will run Wednesday through Sunday the week before and the week of the parade at New Stage Theatre in Jackson.
Many thought this day might never come — a reunion of the Queens and the St. Paddy’s parade.
The parade, which will celebrate its 36th anniversary next year, has long been recognized as one of the Southeast’s top attractions. And Browne’s 1999 book “The Sweet Potato Queens” earned them a national fan base that increased the parade’s popularity.
The Queens last appeared in the St. Paddy’s Parade in 2010. Browne founded her own event in 2013 — the Zippity Doo Dah parade in Fondren the week after White’s parade.
But Browne made her feelings about the reunion known by holding up a sheet of paper with the words “zippity PADDY doo dah” in bold letters.
“You see that ‘Paddy’ is the biggest word,” she said. “This is where (the Sweet Potato Queens) started. I’ve not made a speech in the country where I didn’t give Malcolm White credit for giving us the reason for getting in that first parade ... I’m very grateful to be back.”
The St. Paddy’s Parade has raised thousands of dollars for Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson. So, too, did Browne’s event.
“Anyone who visits Batson will quickly understand why it’s such a wonderful place to give,” White said.
Starting next spring, White and Browne will do so together — again.
Information from: The Clarion Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com