Focused on Mississippi: History of the Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade

Focused on Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – For the second year in a row, the Hal’s St. Paddy’s parade was canceled in Jackson because of the coronavirus pandemic. The first parade happened 39 years ago. It went up West Street to Capitol Street and back to George Street Grocery on a Thursday afternoon.

Parade founder, Malcolm White, dreamed it up almost on a whim.

“At that time, I was working on Jubilee Jam, Zoo Blues. Why don’t we have more parades in Jackson? Get on the phone, I call my friends. I rounded up a couple of sponsors and off we went,” he said.

If it were not for COVID-19, the parade would be happening on the first Saturday after St. Patrick’s Day.

Sweet Potato Queen Jill Conner Browne was in that first parade 39 years ago as the Sweet Potato Queen for the very first time. She knows the transformative power of about 70,000 people lining the sidewalks cheering you on. 

“People have always said, ‘Oh, they turn into somebody else where they put those outfits on.’ No. We are completely ourselves in those outfits,” she said.

The parade, and particularly the Queendom of Sweet Potatoes, being irreverent is a positive.

“There is no line that we do not cross. We are men, women, gay, straight, young, old, black, white, rich, poor, married, single, drunk, sober. I have the ashes of a dead woman, and she rides on the float every year,” said Browne.

Well, there was no parade last year, and there will be no parade this year. Hopefully, we’ll have one next year.

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