Pickle parade becoming big dill

03/10/2014 12:00 AM

03/07/2014 2:42 PM

Downtown Mansfield will take on a green hue this weekend as the third annual Best Maid St. Paddy’s Pickle Parade and Palooza celebrates the city’s dill-seasoned history with a three-day party.

Everything is bigger this year. The city has agreed to shut down Main Street not only for the Saturday afternoon parade, but all day long, allowing for a centerpiece main stage that until now had been relegated to a side street.

The food and retail vendor area has expanded, hosting close to 70 booths, and the Saturday music lineup features an additional band. And the governing organization, the Pickle Mansfield Society (PMS), has eliminated the nominal admission that previously was charged for the children’s area.

The event, which opens Friday evening with live music, was a big draw from the start. City officials estimated that 5,000 people lined Main Street for the inaugural parade and beer-drinking, pickle-eating aftermath party. Last year the number doubled to 10,000, police estimated.

PMS President John Pressley, who has been watching extended weather forecasts (70 degrees and sunny is the consensus), didn’t hesitate when asked what he expects for this weekend’s turnout.

“15,” he said, meaning thousands.

Few expectations led up to the parade and palooza in 2012, Pressley said. And those participating in that first parade were the last to know how many people showed up.

“We had no clue how many people turned out for it until we turned off of Dallas Street and onto Main Street,” he said. “It was just wall-to-wall people. It was amazing.”

The festival is partly a celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, but its uniqueness comes from the homage it pays to Mansfield’s homegrown pickle and condiment maker, Best Maid Products, which opened in 1926 and now churns out 50 million pickles a year in Mansfield.

“It just says that Mansfield is a fun community to be in,” said Nancy Brown, one of 15 Pickle Queens. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. You put on red wigs and green, ugly prom dresses and pretend you’re queen for a day.”

The festivities kick off at 7 p.m. Friday with the Clint Moody Band at Steven’s Garden and Grill, 223 Depot St., a block east of Main Street.

Saturday morning, runners and walkers can choose among three routes -- five kilometers, 10 kilometers and one mile. The festivals website -- http://www.pickleparade.org-- has information on fun-run registration and festival activities.

The main area opens at noon Saturday, including the vendors and the children’s area, which features a petting zoo, crafts, live music for kids, tennis lessons, two inflatable bounce houses and a bubble pit.

The parade, which will be the largest yet with 70 entries, begins at 2 p.m. At 6 p.m., the festival will host pickle-eating and pickle-juice-drinking contests.

The disco group, Le Freak, will headline the free concert at about 9 p.m. The openers are a local group, Rental Rockers, at 4 p.m., and Houston-native Grateful Geezers at 6:45 p.m.

Sunday, the Farr Best Theater at 109 N. Main St. will show “The Wizard of Oz” at 2 p.m. Admission is free. Donations to Feed the Kids for Summer, a program of nonprofit Common Ground, will be accepted.

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