Things will be a little different in downtown Mansfield this weekend. Beer kegs will drag-race down Main Street. Babies will be on parade in Mardi Gras-themed mini-floats. And a band of goofy pirates will float through town.
It’s all part of the World’s Only St. Paddy’s Pickle Parade & Palooza on March 16 and 17. These are just the new attractions for the now two-day celebration that includes a 100-float parade, concerts, a play area, food vendors and a pickle-eating contest.
The seventh annual, free event has grown into the largest gathering in Mansfield’s history, drawing 30,000 to 45,000 people to downtown Mansfield each March, said John Pressley, president of the Pickled Mansfield Society. This year’s theme is Mardi Gras with the catchphrase: "We don’t hide our crazy, we parade it down Main Street."
“There’s something for everyone,” said Bob Kowalski, a member of the Pickled Mansfield Society board of directors. “It seems like everyone you know is in the parade, but the streets are lined with spectators as well. It’s a gift to the community and our sponsors have really bought into that.”
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Parking will be at Legacy High School with free shuttles to and from the event. “With three shuttles going no more than a mile, it should be less than a 10-minute wait between buses,” Pressley said. “That’s been our biggest drawback to this event, just nowhere to park. This solves the parking problem.”
The parking is sponsored by trucking company J.B. Hunt. Free parking will also be available at R.L. Anderson Stadium and Guyer Field. Visit pickleparade.org for more information.
One of the wackiest additions to this year’s event is the Dirty Job Brewing Pickle Parade Beer Keg Races at 5 p.m. Friday March 16 on Main Street.
Various breweries will compete against each other in various categories. There’s also a citizen race that’s open to anyone. “We’re expecting a lot of unique entries on that,” Kowalski said. “There’s really no format for what a motorized beer keg has to look like so people are going to use their imaginations on that.”
Dirty Job Brewing got on board with the concept and lent its name to the event.
Also new this year, there’s a baby parade open to children ages 6 months to 48 months at 10 a.m. Saturday March 17. Parents can dress up their children and decorate their stroller or wagon as a mini-float. Parents can register the day of the event, but it’s capped at 25 children.
Then, at 11 a.m. March 17, the Swashchucklers Comedy Show will park its pirate ship on Main Street. These goofballs will entertain the crowd with pranks and jokes that are funny and topical for today, Kowalski said.
For fans of eating contests, there’s Kendra’s Kreations Pickle Eating and Juice Drinking contest. And there’s the Mindy Lu’s Pie Eating Contest. Both are at 4 p.m. Saturday March 17.
The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are back to sign autographs and pump up the crowd during the parade. There’s also a playground full of bounce houses and other fun activities that’s all free.
There will be more food vendors this year with booths set up at the north and south ends of the event. There will be two Fletcher’s Corny Dog booths.
And there will be concerts throughout the event, including country star Coffey Anderson, cover band Run 4 Cover and Cajun star Wayne Toups.
The Methodist Mansfield Pickle races are back starting at 8 a.m. March 17. There’s a 10k, a 5k and a Kids K.
At 1 p.m., the World’s Only St. Paddy’s Pickle Parade begins winding its way through downtown. The parade starts on Dallas Street, turns north on Main Street, turns east on Oak Street, turns south on Smith Street, turns east on Broad Street and then heads south on Waxahachie Street back to Dallas Street.
The final float of the parade always belongs to the well-preserved Pickle Queens, wearing their trademark green dressed, red wigs, boas and tiaras.
Paulette Uzee has been busy visiting elementary schools to get the word out about the Pickle Parade and Palooza. For the Pickle Queens, this is their Christmas Day.
“It’s a lot of fun when we turn on Main Street and see those crowds of people,” Uzee said. “We’re just excited that everybody came out to enjoy the day.”