A float named “The Lepra-cants,” by the Sumner family of Suffolk, Va., wins the $550 prize in Friday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Ocracoke.

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Text and photos by Connie Leinbach

You can’t beat kids and fire, was a comment about the winning float in the second annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Ocracoke Friday.

A trailer decorated in green, spouting fire, and which hauled two couples and five children, won the $550 cash prize offered by Ocracoke Bar & Grille, founder of the parade last year.

 Driver Thurston Sumner of Suffolk, Va., hastily dubbed the contraption “The Lepra-cants” (a play on “leprechaun”) before the parade began.

Adding to the effect was a jet of fire rigged in front of the float and which spouted Wizard-of-Oz-like numerous times along the parade route from the Ocracoke Gas Station to the parade terminus at the O’Bar.

A retired Coast Guard lieutenant, Sumner, who owns a house on Howard Street, said his family and friends decided to come to the island for the weekend to participate in the parade.

Jeanne Shrader of Kitty Hawk and Beth and Ken Phetteplace of Burlington, Wisconsin, in their St. Patrick’s Day “fascinators.”

“It’s healthy to bring people together for a good time,” he said while the group mustered along with several other additions in the gas station parking lot.

Beth Phetteplace of Burlington, Wisconsin, and her sister Jeanne Shrader of Kitty Hawk, taking their cue from Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, made green “fascinator” hats out of paper plates for the occasion.

“Kate got into trouble wearing fascinators instead of a proper hat,” Beth said about the headgear, which were constructed by cutting out the main plate section and retaining the rims, which they then decorated.

“We came just for this,” Beth said, noting that the sunny, albeit chilly day, was warm to her and her husband, Ken.

She saw the ideas for the “hats” on Pinterest, and she and Jeanne festooned them with paint, feathers from the beach and “amazing treasures from the Village Thrift Shop.”

Their husbands, Ken and Dave, sported fascinators with shamrocks—“but no hair,” Beth said.

A group of women from Morehead City, who sported rainbow-colored tutus and called themselves “The Lucky Charmers,” added the parade to the weekend of celebratory activities.

The Lucky Charmers of Morehead City toss “taste the rainbow” candy to spectators along the parade route.

“We saw the parade last year and said, ‘We gotta do this,’” said Samantha Tuttle, whose birthday is March 16 and was the reason for the Ocracoke getaway.

The group threw mini packets of Skittles candies to spectators along the route saying, “Taste the rainbow.”

The Grand Marshal this year was Luis DeJesus of New York City, who was filling in at the last minute as the Grand Poohbah of Tomfoolery for the scheduled “leprechaun,” Brian, who couldn’t make it because he was snowed in.

Both are members of the Kiss tribute band called “Mini Kiss,” and DeJesus plays Gene Simmons.

But on Friday, he was costumed as a leprechaun and carried the $550 in cash in a gold bucket while he was driven in the lead-off golf cart by Sean Death, who, with his wife Laurie, conceived of the parade last year.  The Deaths sponsored the event and the prize money.

Sean Death, left, founder of the parade, and Luis DeJesus, leprechaun for the day, await the parade outside the Ocracoke Bar & Grille.

Death said he was a bit worried at 3 p.m. when no one was at the gas station, but then around 4 p.m., islanders and visitors decked out in green showed up.

Among the participants were Van and Julia O’Neal, who rode in their green military vehicle, and Wayne and Trudy Clark, who dubbed their golf cart “The Paddy Wagon,” while their dog rode in a cage in the back.

“I’m so pleased with the turnout,” Death said after the event.  “All these people showed up.”

While last year there were about four parade entries, this year there were about 13 participants.

Death said this year’s event surpassed their goal for the (yet-to-be) third-year event.

 “I can’t wait for next year’s event,” he said. Death wants the parade to be held on the actual St. Patrick’s Day, and next year, the holiday will be on a Saturday.

And he stressed his goal is to promote the opening of the island season.

Spectators cheer on the parade participants.

“I want all of the restaurants and businesses to bring their brochures to the O’Bar and the Gas Station to promote what we have,” he said. “This is to promote the community.”

He noted that Tommy Hutcherson, proprietor of the Variety Store, lent his van for another islander to pick DeJesus up at the Norfolk airport.

“Laurie and I are really thankful to the community,” Death said.


Ocracoke High School math teacher Beth Layton became a leprechaun for the day.
Grand Poohbah of Tomfoolery Luis DeJesus, with the pot o’ gold prize, announces the parade winner.
Trudy and Wayne Clark in their paddy wagon.
The victorious ‘Lepra-cants’–and leprechaun Luis DeJesus, back right–with their prize winnings. Thurston Sumner is to the left of DeJesus.
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