Skies of blue, seas of green

Guest post by Mary Furness

With profound apologies to the Beatles, that is what St. Patrick’s Day in Rolla, Mo., feels like. Or at least, what it felt like this year.  And I took my own “Yellow Submarine” to experience it all — a surreal sort of experience.

I usually miss the big parade down there, as I work Saturdays at Saint Missourinet, but my husband and son travel there annually to march with the Boone County Firefighter Pipe and Drum Corps. This year, the stars and days aligned, and I thought it would be good to see what the fuss was all about.

St. Patrick is, among many things, the patron saint of engineers, and the university at Rolla being made up primarily of engineering types, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations begin early in the week and continue throughout the day thereof. A king, queen, and knights are crowned the day before;  the parade street is swabbed down with green paint the morning of the event; the scent of kettle corn (dyed green) and barbeque fills the air; green beer makes its appearance early and often, and at the end of the day a grand ball is held.

This in itself was not overly surprising, but everyone had beads on! Green ones — like Mardi-Gras beads! At times the line blurred between Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day — shouts of “beads, beads!” and  the beads flung like missiles from wild floats compete with the sight  and sound of bagpipes, drums, and  marching bands. Not to mention the Corvette Club, and the Shriners on their motorized trikes! No, nobody lifted their shirts for beads — this is Rolla, after all.

Everyone also seemed to be informally competing for “most green on one human being”. I felt positively underdressed with green socks, green shoes and a green necklace along with my gray pants and black shirt. Everyone — at the very least — had on a shirt in some shade of green, one woman had green false eyelashes, several showed up in green body paint, and yes, a woman had even spray-painted her  dog with splotches of … wait for it … green.

After an hour, on St. Patrick’s Day overload, I made my way back through the “sea of green” to my “Yellow Submarine” — a.k.a. Suby the Subaru. She is actually black, and good for incognito work. I found my pipers and drummers at a Chinese restaurant — somehow, that type of food seemed refreshing. Then the “skies of blue” clouded up and poured on us, and I was glad of my “submarine” on the drive back up to reality.

As I stepped back from the crowds, determined to find that one last picture, I looked up, past the crowds at the lovely, old, small-town Americana architecture. I gazed at the striped awnings and read the signs for pottery shops, antique emporiums and bookstores, and pictured their owners … gray-haired ladies with sparkly sweatshirts perhaps? … and wondered where they were today. Had they left town on this unusually rowdy weekend? Then something brushed my leg, and I looked down. Into the eyes of a very eager-to-please, somewhat green, four legged beast. Somehow, the epitome of Rolla’s St. Paddy’s day, and my perfect last photo.

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