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St. Patrick's Day parade draws a festive crowd

Lexington turned out Saturday to celebrate the original March Madness with the city's 31st annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Besides the popular bagpipers and step-dancers, the parade featured some quirkier permutations on the Irish theme.

There were green-sequined belly dancers, shamrock-bedecked horses and emerald-blanketed greyhounds.

Some extremely intent sheep dogs herded a flock of green-kerchiefed sheep down Main Street.

The March Madness Marching Band enlivened things with decorated hoops, wacky costumes and enthusiastic kazooing.

Six-month-old Gillian Lusk of Nicholasville celebrated her first "wearing of the green" in a pale-green jacket. "She likes the dancers," said her mother, Shannon Lusk.

Tweed-clad cyclists from the community used the parade as a warm-up before jaunting around the city.

St. Patrick himself (or at least a reasonable facsimile) rode on a vintage firetruck courtesy of the Lexington Public Safety Museum.

Another Irish tradition was amply represented: politics. Candidates for various local offices including mayor, sheriff and property valuation administrator worked the crowds with handshakes and candy.

From the festival site at the CentrePointe block, John Philip Coles IV, 5, of Richmond, watched the parade of passing dogs with interest. "He's as Irish as they come," said his father, John Coles III, originally of Boston. "We go to all the Irish festivals."

The day opened with the blessing of the keg and the 3K Shamrock Shuffle.

This year's parade and festival were sponsored by Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co., the Bluegrass Irish Society and the city Division of Parks and Recreation.