Minutes before the unmistakable moan of bagpipes signaled the start of the annual Paddy Hough Parade, the excitement radiating from the Hough Elementary School students waiting in the wings reached a fever pitch.
Clad in festive green attire, thematic costumes and holding handmade signs, the kids were powder kegs of anticipation: waving arms, shuffling feet, bright eyes.
As the Vancouver Firefighters Pipes and Drums group let it blast, so did the students, shouting in excitement as they eagerly merged, classroom by classroom, with the 22nd annual parade’s procession Friday afternoon.
It might have been workday business-as-usual in the surrounding neighborhoods, but for a few hours, the Uptown Village area of Vancouver was in a celebratory shutdown — patrons of local shops smiled through windows while hundreds filled the sidewalks of Main Street armed with cameras and lawn chairs. One woman even perched on the curb with two parakeets to watch the parade stroll by, led by Hough Elementary Principal and parade Grand Marshal Eva Unger.
As with other community parades, the Paddy Hough Parade, organized each year by the Hough Foundation, had a youthful tinge.
“It’s always cute to see the kids,” said waitress Andrea Wood from inside Vancouver Pizza along the parade route.
But this celebration is about more than the requisite candy, confetti and kids.
A towering wooden effigy of Patrick “Paddy” Hough was wheeled alongside the classic cars, dignitaries, marching bands and local groups. The pressboard doppelganger continually gave a creaky wave with its lone arm as a reminder of the man behind the march.
Hough was a legendary local educator immortalized in the name of Hough Elementary, its foundation and the Hough neighborhood. His devotion to teaching and the Vancouver-area community has reverberated through decades — even in 2013, 88 years after his death. History tells us the one-armed Irish native was diminutive in stature, but strong in heart.
It was the first Paddy Hough Parade for Bev Brewer, a resident of the Rose Village neighborhood. She came out this year to support her 12-year-old grandson, Chris Brewer, who was marching with the Discovery Middle School band. She said she was amazed she could live so long in a city and not be that aware of such an exciting, large event.
Lisa and Larry Linstrom, who live in the Hough neighborhood with their 12-year-old dog, Bruno, and 3-year-old daughter, Olive Mae, couldn’t wait to march again in the parade after a joyful time last year.
Bruno, for one, laps up the attention, Lisa said.
Just as in 2012, they walked the route with the green-spotted Bruno — dyed with food coloring — while pulling Olive Mae in a wagon decorated with cloverlike pinwheels. The girl’s eyes peeked at the large crowd from the safety of her cart.
“This is a big, big thing for us,” Lisa said.
The parade usually draws around 900, said Hough Foundation Executive Director Barbara Hammon and this year’s turnout seemed to rival that number. The nonprofit’s mission is to support the Hough community through financial assistance, special programs and regular events.
Hammon said she is extremely proud of the dedication poured into the parade by the large team of volunteers, proving the devotion and energy of the Hough-area community.
And despite being held in mid-March, the sun — or as close as we get out here — has always shined on the celebration year after year. With not a drop of rain, this parade was no exception.
“It’s never rained on the parade,” Hammon said.
View a video of the parade on YouTube.