Denver has held a St. Patrick's Day parade for the last 38 years, but I've only attended a couple of them. The first time, two years ago, a local indie band called Sympathy F commandeered its very own float, and the James Joyce Appreciation Society participated. The latter organization consisted of a guy holding a battered paperback copy of Ulysses out the window of his truck, as if to say, "Appreciate yes this, godyesdammit! Yes." That was also the year that I saw a kid drive a mini go-cart right into the crowd. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it was quite shocking all the same. They don't let the kids drive anymore.

Matt and I saw this year's St Patrick's Day Parade at the foot of the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Denver. From my vantage point, one of the most amusing sights was watching baggage-laden people trying to check into the hotel and dodge Riverdancers and marching bands at the same time. The spectators, wearing green sweaters, green socks, green hair ribbons, shamrock deely-bobbers, Irish flags and leprechaun hats, were showing their St. Patrick's Day spirit. They were rewarded for their efforts, because this parade was the most bountiful of any parade I've ever seen. The kid in front of me filled an entire hat with candy, and another kid I saw flaunted a plastic shopping bag full of goodies. There were also rainbow pencils, stickers and green beads galore. I even got a coupon for a free state map- a $3.95 value! This was better than trick-or-treat!

The parade began on a promisingly bizarre note. As Matt and I strolled past the art museum, we passed Miss Tall Denver and her entourage getting in line for the parade. A tall spotty man (who had as much chance as a leprechaun to be Mr. Tall Denver) chased Matt and tried to hand him something. Matt protested, but the guy persisted in trying to recruit Matt for the tall club. We had to hide from the Tall Denver people the rest of the day; Matt crouched. After the tall people, there were some shaggy Irish wolfhounds and the "Music Legends." For some enigmatic reason, the "Music Legends," who recreationally sing moldy oldies, chose to dress as characters from the "Wizard of Oz." They were accompanied by a dancing man with green nipples and a matching towel around his waist. I didn't remember him being in the movie, but he did put on quite a show. When the Civil War re-enactors behind him issued a gun salute, the poor guy almost collapsed from fright. I was relieved to see that he didn't lose his towel and that he didn't have a heart attack.

As you might expect for a St. Patrick's Day parade, there were plenty of bagpipe and drum bands. Earlier, while Matt and I were searching for a parking space, we had spotted a sticker that read, "Pipe drummers know where to stick it!" This, in truth, made me regard the dudes in kilts and their Irish step-dancing consorts quite differently. There were traditional marching bands, too. One band, perhaps confused by all the different shades of green in the audience, didn't turn the corner in time, and ended up marching right into the audience. One odd trend I noticed was for enormous squads of pom-pom girls, under names like ShowStarz and Youth on Parade and Young Olympians, shouting and shaking for their own mysterious purposes. Are these girls that couldn't make it on a cheerleading squad any other way?

We also had a legion of Elvis impersonators (from both the Thin and Fat Eras), our St. Patrick impersonators banishing toy snakes, our moussed and permed rodeo queens, our Jews for Jesus whirling and flailing and whooping. We had a giant Mongo Man from a local Mongolian BBQ restaurant, terrorizing the children with his jerky walk, and we had people dressed as fuzzy dinosaurs. We had, not one, but two scooter clubs- the old people's scooter club and the hipster kids' scooter club. I'll bet you anything that there was a big rumble after the parade. Incidentally, the old people had nicer scooters. There were floats too, but really, the floats were just mobile parties, convenient places to put the cooler and the stereo. Speaking of parties, the audience was more sober than in past years; there was one drunk guy giving the world the finger, but other than that, people kept their wits about them. This was the only false note of the holiday.

There were 250 entries total, and I think 200 of those were probably Shriners. There were the Shriners in the "Rumble Bees" unit, in the "Sports Car" unit (a bad-ass squad of 1994 Chrysler Sebrings!), the band unit, the scooter unit, the mini-bike unit, the Salesman unit, the classic car unit, the "Appreciating the American Indian" unit. I got the idea that when someone joins the Shriners, after the initiation, the grand poobah takes him aside and says, "Ok, we need someone to drive a go-cart or to play the bagpipes. Which do you want?" Since the Shriner portion of the parade was so long, I found myself asking questions. Where do the Shriners keep all those teensy cars and motorcycles? Do they get to take them home? Do they practice their maneuvers in the parking lot after every meeting?

Clocking in at over three hours, the parade tested even my endurance, but I'm still glad I went. For one thing it was free entertainment, and I enjoyed the curbside camaraderie with the spectators (most of whom brought their dogs). What I like most about the Denver St. Patrick's Day parade, though, is that I feel like I could have my very own entry in it. There's absolutely no elitism. I mean, of all the major cities, only in Denver can you just stick a few green balloons on your cement truck and drive it as a float in the parade. You don't even have to be Irish; you just have to love parades. Matt and I discussed driving our Galaxie next year, or even dressing as characters from "The Andy Griffith Show." So if you're in Denver on the weekend before St. Patrick's Day next year, keep an eye out for us!

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