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A leprechaun will grant your wishes, but don't think you'll have an easy time tracking one down.

"The chances of catching one are very rare," said Candi Whitworth.

Whitworth, in a crowd of bundled-up bystanders drenched in green, watched the parade Saturday celebrating St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. St. Paddy's Day isn't until Wednesday, but folks in Missoula didn't balk at an early bout of Irish revelry.

Even the pets showed off the Irish spirit. Rick Padgett of Florence walked Aura, a wire-haired griffon draped in shamrock-printed fleece. Shiny gold circles edged her coat; Padgett said his wife had spent the whole week sewing outfits for Aura and their Irish wolfhounds in the parade.

"We're here with our two Irish wolfhounds, and my wife made all their outfits," Padgett said.

Joanne Mackey and Noelle Crimmins of Ireland accessorized with the Irish flag. Crimmins, from Ennis, used hers as a scarf. (She knows people from Ennis, Ireland, who live in Ennis, Montana.) Mackey of Limerick wrapped hers around her waist.

Mackey, Crimmins, Loretta Corcoran and Kathleen Nolan are Irish women studying in Missoula since August. One deemed the crowd a tad small in size - and another detected a big heart.

"I was just expecting a bigger crowd," said Corcoran of Kerry Ireland.

"Everybody who is here, though, is good spirited," said Mackey.

Nolan of Thurles Tipperary offered folks who want to celebrate March 17 with an authentic Irish meal to hold the corned beef. When Americans talk with her about their take on the traditional fare, she fills them in on the real deal.

"That would be bacon and cabbage. Not corned beef and cabbage," Nolan said.


Whitworth of Missoula had dished up the same factoid. She held Keno in her arms, and the fuzzy black pooch didn't look to be wearing green, but he sported a "Bad to the Bone" dog collar at his first parade.

"He's Irish, even though he's a Pomeranian," Whitworth said.

Megan O'Neil is Irish without a doubt and she looked it from head to toe. She wore shamrock knee-highs, shamrock tights, shamrock boxers, shamrock suspenders, shamrock faux tattoos, a shamrock face sticker, shamrock glasses, shamrock headband and a green T-shirt reading "Party like a leprechaun." And why?

"From Butte; half Irish; my dad is 100 percent Irish; it's one of the funnest holidays; and it's fun to dress up," O'Neil said.

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And did she mention she's from Butte? As for dressing up, she ran the Run Wild Missoula fun run in the get-up, wearing all but the glasses.

Along the curb, a troop of 13 children, a couple in pink winter boots, sat in a row munching on bananas and bologna sandwiches before the parade began. Ashley Scott, a weekend supervisor for Watson Children's Shelter, said the parade was a weekend highlight.

"They found out this morning we were going, and they were really excited," Scott said.

Like veteran parade-goers, some of the tykes had wrapped blankets around their legs. A couple snowflakes fell during the parade, but the weather didn't look like it was going to dampen their plans.

"We came to the homecoming parade, but it didn't work. It was snowy and cold," she said.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at 523-5262, or on


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