By Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor
Sidney is one of the smallest towns in Sharp County, but when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, folks come from miles around donning their best Irish attire as a sea of green celebrates the luck of the Irish in grand and friendly fashion.
The event is in its 68th year. The tradition allows the small town to shine for just one afternoon as they host the area for a parade, festivities and bragging rights at one of the area’s largest barbecue competitions.
Sidney native Gwen Battles, along with her children and the Sidney Extension Homemakers Club, gave the parade its roots and area residents something to look forward to each Spring.
Some of the earliest memories Battles recalled were of Tressie Kirk and her husband, who was in the military moving back to the area where they grew up and coming up with an idea to liven up the small rural community.
In the early years, the parade’s humble beginnings in 1958, consisted of a short parade of the Extension Ladies dressing in Irish attire and inviting their husbands to have lunch with them at the community hall. This is now Sidney City Hall. What it lacked in size it made up of in popularity. The luncheons became popular and the event continued to grow and soon encompassed a parade and other events.
With decorated bicycles and horses to residents clad in green, the parade was small at first but continued to grow through the years. It became a popular event for politicians, including former President Bill Clinton, who rode in the parade when he ran for governor.
Through the years, the tradition continued and grew, but each year it was held the Saturday prior to St. Patrick’s Day. Games, food vendors, a beauty pageant, a barbecue competition and a Shamrock Shuffle 5K race were added. Irish stew and other tasty offerings from the ladies were also a hit. The Fire Department got on board and used the event as a way to conduct fundraisers and educate the community with information about fire prevention and showcase their department.
Over the years with the closure of the Sidney Nursing Home, a bank and stores, putting the parade in a bleak few years. Since 2014, the new events have brought back the community’s spirit and allowed the event to experience growth.
This year, the Sidney St. Patrick’s Day festivities will be held Sat. March 19, 2022 in downtown Sidney. The parade will begin at 1 p.m. The fire department will host vendors, food and live music. A pie auction will take place after the parade.
Bring the family and lawn chairs and enjoy the afternoon in Sidney .Good turnouts have kept the event alive and young people participating. Perhaps yet another generation will one day take over and make the event even larger.