World's shortest St. Paddy's Day Parade goes ahead: Southern Alberta tradition continues despite COVID-19
The Carmangay parade was started by Jim O’Conner, owner of the Grange Hotel, who wanted to show off his Irish pride by marching down Carmen Street dressed in green.
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- Even the pandemic didn’t stop a handful of Carmangay residents from celebrating their annual St. Patrick’s Day tradition of hosting the world’s shortest parade.
The event started more than 30 years ago, and although this year's turnout was much smaller than usual, local residents say they weren’t going to pass up on the chance to be Irish, if only for the day.
The participants trickled in just before the 11 a.m. scheduled parade start, wearing green shirts, hats or sunglasses.
Kelly and Patty Greene were among about two dozen people who joined in the two minute long parade, which starts at the village office on Main Street, and ends half a block away, at the hotel.
“It’s a community thing,” said Kelly. “We’ve been coming for a long, long time.”
The parade was started by Jim O’Conner, owner of the Grange Hotel, who wanted to show off his Irish pride by marching down Carmen Street dressed in green.
The story goes, that O’Conner actually missed the first parade, because he was behind the hotel checking to see if anyone would show up. By the time he came back the parade was over.
O’Conner has since passed away but the tradition has been continued by family members and area residents.
“We’ve lived here for 15 years,” said Marilyn Dixon. “When we’re in town on the day we try to come. It’s big doings in Carmangay.”
The community has about 250 residents. For some, the parade is about coming together, visiting friends and family, and maybe sharing an Irish whiskey or glass of green beer.
In past years, the event has attracted up to 100 people, with visitors coming from Lethbridge, Calgary, Edmonton and even parts of British Columbia.
Last year, around the start of the pandemic, only about a dozen people attended.
There were about twice that number this year.
“As long as people social distance, I think it’ll be fine,” said Patty Greene.
The Village of Carmangay posted a statement concerning the parade and after event, which said they were not involved, and had made attempts to connect with the organizers, “to suggest in the interest of public safety that it be delayed to another date.”
Pointing out that it could negatively impact the health of seniors in the community, the statement said “it is hoped the organizers reconsider running the event.”
According to the Village office, Mayor Stacey Hovde was at work, and unable to comment.
Councillor Doug Fraser said they don’t want to be responsible for spreading COVID, but at the same time, residents don’t want the parade to die.
“It’s the one little thing we have here, and it’s nice to keep things going,” he added.
Most of the people who took part in this year’s event are residents of the community, former residents, or live nearby.
“I don’t really see anybody from far away,” said Patty Greene.
The Village Bistro, a restaurant in Carmangay, was selling takeout meals of Guinness Stew, a bun and cupcake for five dollars. The hotel pub, which is normally full after the parade, was quiet, with only a few tables occupied and no Irish band to provide entertainment.
Even though it wasn’t quite the same, residents said it was nice to be able to celebrate friendship, and the arrival of spring.