It’s Mississippi’s annual celebration of Spring, dubbed as a “green Mardi Gras” and a “lighthearted homecoming where everyone is king-and-queen-for a-day.”
Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade is one event in the Capital City that you DO NOT want to miss, but do you know the history of the parade?
The day is a celebration of the rebirth of Mississippi’s capital city, a joyous observance of what is “good and encouraging” about the heart of our state. It is a day where sense of humor and sense of place rule the day. It is a time to honor the good work of the UMC’s Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. This rambling, outrageous, hilarious ride, starting and ending at Jackson’s favorite gathering place—Hal & Mal’s.
Wacky, tacky beginnings
Back in 1983, Malcolm White got a permit from the city and had several friends stroll up Captial Street dressed as characters from Tennessee Williams’ plays. They were determined to have a grand time! Malcolm’s goal was to have fun, but it was also about something bigger. He wanted to give Jackson something to celebrate that was uniquely Jackson. He combined his love of Mardi Gras with St. Patrick’s Day feels and created something wacky, funny, and extremely original.
From there, the Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade became a Jackson tradition. It continues today, but is now called the Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival in honor of Malcolm’s late brother Hal, “who was one of its leading revelers and supporters.”
Mal says that there are two ways people die: one when their physical health declines and second when people stop saying their names. Mal says he never wants people to stop saying Hal’s name.
According to their website, Hal (Harold Taylor White, Jr.) was born on March 13, 1949, in a modest apartment home on the campus of Perkinston Junior College. He was the first born son of Harold Sr. and Nelda Gene, and big brother to Mal. Hal was athletic, approachable and a naturally affable kid. He was an outstanding Boy Scout, but never much of a student. He attended Northeast Community College and Mississippi State University and learned to make a living by working hard and being nice to people.
Hal was a self-taught chef and master soup meister who was influenced by Gulf Coast and New Orleans culture and foodways. He took what he knew, studied what inspired him, and worked hard to put his special touch on it. He was loved by the many people who knew him, worked with him and who had the honor of being in his company. He gave more than he took.
He loved his family and friends, his many communities, sports, and the Parade. He was the natural leader of the ancient and venerable O’Tux Society, and it is only fitting that this parade and festival should now be dedicated to his good will and good nature. Hal died in 2013.
Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade will live on to be many things to many people, but regardless of the words or descriptions one chooses to employ, it’s really hard to ignore its humble beginnings in Downtown Jackson, in 1983. Today’s parade, street dance, children’s activities, run, pet parade, festivals, and all the other creative components under the banner of Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade are permitted by the City of Jackson and Hinds County.
Most festivities are open to the public and everyone is encouraged to participate!
This year’s theme is “A Magical Mystery Tour” and Grand Marshal Robert St. John will lead the parade through the streets of downtown Jackson, entertaining thousands of people.
This year is extra special as Jill Conner Browne and her court of Sweet Potato Queens return to the parade!
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Information from Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival website