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TVL It'll be a sea o' green at St. Paul parade Monday

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By Joshua Lynch

jlynch@postbulletin.com

ST. PAUL -- It was nearly four decades ago when a St. Paul restaurant owner organized his first St. Patrick's Day parade.

Bob Gallivan, proprietor of Gallivan's restaurant and bar, wanted little more than a tribute to the city's Irish heritage. But what he got was an event that has since become an annual tradition for hundreds of Irish families.

This year's parade, the 37th such event, will begin at noon Monday. The route covers nine blocks along St. Paul's Fourth Street, from Sibley Avenue to Washington Avenue.

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Mary McFarland, president of the parade-organizing group St. Patrick's Association, said the parade traditionally represents 90 minutes of intense Irish infatuation.

"The parade is a sea of green buttons, hats and scarves, with Irish wolf hounds barking and bagpipers tuning up," she said. "Irish dancers in beautifully-embroidered dresses (will be) stepping out."

McFarland said parade organizers have kept the event close to its original style by banning most motorized vehicles. Only the grand marshals are allowed to ride in a vehicle. All other participants must walk or ride a horse.

McFarland said the parade maintains a family atmosphere and encourages children to attend. The crowds are also often full of local employees who view proceedings during their lunch break.

"Because of the time that the parade is held," she said, "many folks who work downtown fill the skyways and streets to watch the parade."

McFarland said to obtain an ideal viewing point -- the skyways over Fourth Street -- attendants should arrive by 11 a.m. The parade is scheduled to begin at noon and conclude around 1:30 p.m.

Ramp parking is available at two locations along Fourth Street. McFarland said more information about the parade is available by calling her at (651) 698-3083.

Just don't ask her to explain some of the more eccentric traditions practiced by parade attendants.

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"The spraying of liquid string always mystifies me," she said. "The folks that consider green hair a statement on the day are also mystifying."

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