Last Saturday was, as always, a bead tossing, green-wearing, crowd drawing heck of a St. Paddy's day parade in Jackson, MS. Despite the rain, the show must and did go on. This dedication to party rain-or-shine is pretty inspiring to see and we're so glad it happens every year just a block away from our downtown studio!
So, this week, we bring you an interview with the Parade King himself, Malcolm White- owner of the popular restaurant, bar and venue Hal & Mal's in downtown Jackson and leader and creator of Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade since the early 80's! Read on to start building your excitement for next year and check out this amazing animated video by local talent and friend, Justin Schultz of The Flying Chair, that pretty much sums up Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade perfectly!
. . . . .How would you describe Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade in your own words and how did it all get started?
It's Jackson's Rites of Spring; a cross between Mardi Gras (North) and a High School Homecoming Parade on beer. I grew up in the MS Coast / NOLA culture of celebrating everything from Groundhog Day to St. Patrick's Day. When I moved to Jackson in 1979 my impression was that it was incredibly boring and up tight. Me and my friends set out to change that, we started creating stuff and some of it stuck. This is one of those that continues to work, continues to amaze and inspire. It looks, sounds and feels like Jackson.
Who is all involved in the process of planning and how long does each years parade take to plan (we imagine it takes a small army)?There are a handful of paid people and hundreds who volunteer. It's a village of folks who want to see it happen each year and organizing the details start the week after we clean up from the mess we just made. The creative and networking truly goes on year-round. The actual action play usually kicks into gear at the first of each year for the coming third Saturday in March.
If you had to choose- what would be your favorite event of the day? The visitation that takes place while we are dressing and getting our marching face on; the two hours before we walk outside to create the marching krewes that step off the Parade. I also love the feeling of dancing down the middle of the street, lead by Jackson's own Southern Komfort Brass Band and hearing and watching 75,000 people go ape. Do you have a favorite parade memory to date? When my now-thirty-year-old daughter saw me in my costume, when she was about 2 or 3, and she lit up like a Roman Candle. I also must say the year Tiny Tim was Grand Marshal. Afterwards he played a set with the Bluz Boyz that concluded with him on his back, center stage, ukulele plugged in LOUD, playing Stairway To Haven.
How have the parade and downtown Jackson changed over the last 30 years?
Paradoxical and phantasmagorically. The Parade is growing and getting more mainstream, while downtown is shrinking and becoming more sophisticated.
As a fellow Jacksonian, what are your favorite local places to shop and dine?
I greatly prefer locally owned and operated eateries and shops. I have a circuit of favorite spots between Downtown and Northside Drive, geography is important.
What are some of the reasons you call Mississippi home?
Family, faith, friends, climate, flora & fauna, water, music, food and familiarity.
How do you think what you are doing is helping to shape your local community as well as the image of Mississippi?
Most everything I do that isn't basic life support, is about moving the meter, perception and image of Mississippi. It is both my passion and my profession.