In 1983 Jacksonian Malcolm White was the manager of the George Street Grocery (now Ole Tavern) when he had the idea to start a fun, anything-goes parade for the community. White says he called a few of his friends, got a permit from the city and started marching in downtown Jackson during rush-hour traffic.
Today, the Mal's St. Paddy's Parade attracts a crowd of approximately 50,000 and is the third largest St. Patrick's Day event in the country.
"We wanted to give people a sense of place and have a sense of humor," White says. "It has always been very loose and fun."
White shared his favorite memories and themes from the parade over the past 28 years.
• The theme is "Put Some Irish in Your Soul."
• The parade consists of White's friends and community members.
• The route starts at CS's on North West Street and ends at the George Street Grocery.
• Parade takes place on a Thursday, causing major traffic delays.
• Three friends—Jill Conner Browne, Vivian Neill and Cheri Anglin—dress up as queens with outfits bought from a thrift store, and throw sweet potatoes from the back of a green Chevrolet pickup truck, starting the now-famous tradition of the Sweet Potato Queens.
• The theme is "Irish I was in the Land of Cotton"
• Artist David Adcock is the grand marshal of the parade and plays an important role for several years offering creative input.
• The parade day is moved to Saturday to spare commuters.
1985: Parade and festival takes place at the Mississippi Fairgrounds.
1986: Parade grand marshal is musician Tiny Tim.
1987: The parade starts and ends at Hal & Mal's.
2001: The theme "Space Oddity" brings out zombies, aliens and characters of all sorts.
• The theme "2002, A Palindrome," brings out parade marchers' and krewes' creativity in coming up with words and phrases that are the same forward as backward.
• During this time, White changes the route to include Lamar Street to showcase downtown developments.
• The parade theme is "Recycle, Rethink, Rejoice Downtown."
• The Trustmark's Children's Festival is moved from the Old Capitol to the Mississippi Museum of Art.
• The parade attracts a crowd of approximately 50,000.
2010: The parade theme is "It's Not Easy Being Green," in honor of Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets.