Brookside’s St. Patrick’s Day Warm-Up Parade: The Origins of a Tradition

(originally published 3/7/19)

The 1980s were a precarious time in Brookside’s life, when securing Brookside’s future would require the tenants to take the lead, to come up with new ideas, to find the energy to get things done, and to refuse to give up or be told no. The merchants association needed more than someone to handle the books and answer the mail. It needed a leader. At just the right time, Virginia Kellogg rose from her role as a Brookside tenant (hair stylist and co-owner of Salon Kellogg) to the Director of the 63rd and Brookside Business Association. For more than a decade Kellogg worked tirelessly to promote her beloved Brookside, and in so doing created a foundation of relationships and activities upon which Brookside could build a more secure future.

Virginia Kellogg passed away in January 2019 at age 80, but her legacy in Brookside lives in the important efforts of her tenure – the restoration of the gaslights, the creation of the Art Annual, and organizing the St. Patrick’s Day Warm-Up Parade. Anticipating this year’s parade to be held on March 16, this week’s piece is taken (with slight modifications) from The Brookside Story. (The piece also appears in the book’s newly released 100th anniversary special edition.)

Technically, Brookside had its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the 1970s. Long-time and former merchants remember a St. Patrick’s Day in the mid 1970s when the proprietor and patrons of Hogerty’s tavern (today’s Hooper’s) formed an impromptu parade around the District. Small wonder, since this was the same Hogerty family responsible for the big St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown. But in 1981, Brookside decided to make it official, although with a twist.

The concept for the Warm-Up parade arose from the idea to get a jump on the growing popularity of the downtown parade, by this time a significant event on Kansas City’s holiday calendar. Kellogg saw St. Patrick’s Day as a natural fit with the Brookside area, owing to the large number of families who claimed (rightly or not) some Irish heritage. By making it the “warm-up” parade, and holding it the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, Brookside would have the distinction of kicking off the city’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Initially, the parade was staged in the parking lot by the tennis courts on Brookside Boulevard, then it wound around Meyer Boulevard, heading north on Brookside Plaza, then east on 63rd Street, and back to the parking lot. Those first years, the participants were largely children – school groups, scout troops, or just a gaggle of neighborhood kids and their parents. A car was pressed into service to chauffer the dignitary who served as Grand Marshall. That was all. According to Kellogg, the whole parade couldn’t have lasted more than thirty minutes. In one of those early years, a local television station arrived to film the parade just as it was ending. “I told them to wait a few minutes,” Kellogg says, “and we just sent the parade around a second time.” In just a few years, the parade grew too large for a Brookside Plaza route. Today, the route stages on Brookside Road just south of the District, comes north on Wornall Road to 63rd Street, and then east to its conclusion at Main Street.

The identity of that first Grand Marshall is apparently lost to history. But over the years, the parade has featured local dignitaries of all stripes as Grand Marshals, including most Kansas City mayors, City Council members and other elected officials and a few of Brookside’s long-time tenants—each proud to be Irish for one day. Later years also saw the parade committee naming a “Mr. & Mrs. Irish,” a couple who have been involved in Brookside for a long time.

The number of parade entrants grew from an estimated twenty the first year, to more than 100 by the time the association had to limit entries. Starting in the late 1980s entries were judged in several categories, including best float, best theme and best music. Even with its modest beginnings, the Brookside St. Patrick’s Day Warm-Up Parade was recognized as a success. The new leadership of the merchant’s association proved adept at attracting media attention and support of public officials. It was a perfect first step for Brookside’s new future, and a signature event that has lasted nearly 40 years.

(Photo: For the first few years, Brookside’s St. Pat’s parade was small enough that its route was south from Meyer Blvd to 63rd Street along Brookside Plaza. Courtesy the Brookside Business Association)

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