The following St. Patrick’s Day parade marching band instructions were pretty much yelled out, in a commanding voice, and delivered with sharp gestures of the arms of the band director:
“Come on! It has to be snappy!”
Do those things (and do them snappy!) and you can march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Wichita, pretty much at the front of Saturday’s parade in the Delano District, with the green-shirted West High School marching band, which was made up of high-schoolers who did not necessarily entirely follow band director Joanna Freed’s instructions to the letter.
She had to kind of yell at them at the beginning. A little.
“This is the biggest audience we’ve ever had,” she kind-of yelled at them. She told them to look sharp. Which they did not quite do at times.
“They were at a game last night, so they might be a little delirious from that,” Freed explained.
Were all 60 band members Irish?
“They are today,” Freed said.
“I’m not,” said alto sax player Levi Asher, a West High junior. “I’m an American.”
Yes he is.
The parade began at noon. The band, shortly after Levi Asher denied any Irishness, stepped off (in a snappy manner) with Freed marching alongside them.
They marched west on Douglas Avenue, heading a parade full of candy throwers, tap dancers, jugglers, bagpipe bands, stilt-walkers, dancers jigging to fast-tempo Celtic fiddle tunes on the back of flat-bed trucks, green-festooned cars and trucks, and more.
As Freed had predicted: they played to a big audience.
Hundreds of people lined the parade route on West Douglas. The green shirts, green hats, green stick-on mustaches, green coats, green face-painted kids and and green-balloon-holding people were stacked sometimes six and seven deep, around the round-about and at other parts of West Douglas, though the parents had to wrap their kids in not-always-green-but-absolutely-warm coats and blankets.
The temperature: 41 degrees at noon with a 12 mph northeast wind making it feel even colder. Nobody looked blue, though.
Mark Longwell showed up with his daughter Stacie Williamson, and nine of his grandchildren: Reed, Liam, Annie, Brady, Gage, Isabella, Caden, Sallie and Avery. The first three named are Williamson’s children.
Candy-throwers in the parade threw lots of candy at them, which the nine Longwell descendants scooped up happily. The family has shown up at Wichita St. Patrick’s Day parades for a decade, Williamson said. They go all Irish for the day, dressing in green, playing Celtic music in the car on the way to the parade, eating corned beef; the adults drink green beer.
“It’s a tradition, and we always look forward to it,” Williamson said.
“It’s about family doing things together,” Grandpa Longwell said.