It all began on August 30, 1975, when WMT Radio announcer Dick Hardiman reported that it was only 200 days to St. Patrick’s Day. Dick had a morning talk and music show, and calls started coming in asking about the possibility of having a parade.
On March 17, 1976, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, debuted. The parade lasted four minutes and was a block and a half long. It was dubbed “The First and Last, One of a Kind, Ecumenical, St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” The parade ran from the Federal Building on 1st Street to Greene Square Park.
The first parade included George Preston from Belle Plaine pulling his 2-headed calf on a platform, a fella leading a goat wearing a jacket that said “Hogan” on the back, and a flatbed truck from Ted’s Happitime with a load of people on it including Ted Mahoney. The signs were all homemade and the entries had a “shanty” look to them.
The following February, Dick Hardiman started getting calls again about the parade. Thus, in 1977, the 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day parade was organized. The parade was twice as long, (a full 10 minutes…) The second parade came and went. Later that year, Dick Hardiman left Cedar Rapids to pursue other job opportunities.
A group of Irish folk gathered at Ted Mahoney’s on 3rd Avenue west. They were bemoaning the fact that their radio announcer advocate had moved out of the area. They decided that a Irish group needed to be formed to keep the parade tradition going. The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Society was born one night in 1977 on a cocktail napkin. The name SaPaDaPaSo was coined by taking the first two letters of the group’s new name.
SaPaDaPaSo has sponsored every parade since 1978 on March 17th, rain or shine.