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By Richard Taylor
The “wearing o’ the green” on St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday may have been sparser than last year, but fun was no less lacking for the fourth annual spring event.
The weather was cold, unlike the pleasant temperatures of last year, and not as many participants and floats showed up as last year. Perhaps because March 17 was on a Sunday.
Sean Death, parade founder and owner of the Ocracoke Bar & Grille, has said he always wants the parade on March 17.
Those “pre-gaming” inside and outside 1718 Brewing Ocracoke, where the parade began, did not seem to mind. After all, they were on “island time.” Many off-islanders journeyed down just for the party.
Luis DeJesus of New York City, decked out as a green leprechaun, was parade grand marshal and head of tomfoolery for the second year.
“Let’s get this parade going,” DeJesus shouted into his megaphone while on the back of Death’s golf cart. “Everybody down to the O’Bar.”
Islander Derek Dirch celebrated his 39th birthday Sunday, cavorting along Irvin Garrish Highway in pale green “G-man” tights, posing for pictures along the way. Dirch said his costume was inspired by a character from the TV series, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Valerie Ellis and her husband of Winton returned with their smiling, dressed-up lab Molly to ride the parade route in her decorated golf cart.
Along the route, golf cart and float riders tossed out candy to eagerly waiting kids.
The Ocracoke Bar & Grill, the parade’s traditional terminus, was packed with green-attired partiers.
As Irish lads-and-lassies-for-a day waited, Tommy Hutcherson spun tunes, took requests and made announcements from his DJ stand in the O-Bar’s front corner.
Finally, DeJesus announced the day’s winners.
Top prize of $550 (leprechaun’s choice for best float, group or individual) went to Casey Tolson and friends for their rainbow float, decorated with dozens of colored balloons blown up by Samantha Hodson and her kids.
The float was a fundraiser for John Simpson following his second leg-amputation surgery. Hodson said supporters had raised $100 before DeJesus made his announcement.
Simpson said he was doing much better and eagerly awaited getting back into the WOVV 90.1 FM radio studio to do his Saturday night “Classic Cuts and Such with John in the Studio” radio show, once the station’s elevator is operational.
Second prize of four “sherpa” sweatshirts went to the Eshams and O’Neals under a rainbow of colorful foam pool noodles and sporting a large wooden shamrock on their float.
“We love shenanigans,” Melinda Esham said as she snapped photos before the parade began.
Bobby O’Neal, lounging in the float’s one easy chair, laughed with many of his costumed friends and neighbors waiting for the parade to start.
David Harrington and the Chesapeake Drinking Crew returned from Virginia to claim third prize of $50.
“We just come to hang out,” Norma said about the group’s third time in the parade. “We like the small island atmosphere, especially in the off season.”
Though the parade was not as large as last year, Death said the weekend was a success. He said last year’s winners, The Lucky Charmers of Morehead City, had been to the island over the weekend but left on Sunday because of work.