JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Every year Mal's St. Paddy's Parade changes its theme and its grand marshal. But next year expect to see the biggest change yet because the Sweet Potato Queens will not be a part of the festivities.
"We have actually made the parade too long. There's no limit in marchers and I don't think Malcolm ever envisioned that we would have quite so many marchers," said Sweet Potato Queen founder Jill Conner Browne.
She made the announcement at the Sweet Potato Queen's brunch at the Hilton in north Jackson Sunday morning.
The plan is to have another parade to include the queens as well as local schools and neighborhoods and march at Renaissance in Ridgeland. It's set for the fourth Saturday in March.
"This will be in no way in competition with Mal's St. Paddy's Parade. It will be a week later. There is no timing conflict at all," said Browne.
The queens, who pour in by the hundreds from all across the country and beyond, give Jackson a huge economic boost every year. Browne said that will not change.
"We'll still be at the Hilton. We'll still be at Bravo, which is in Jackson. We'll still of course be at the Every Day Gourmet. So we're spreading out in the community," said Browne.
A departure from Mal's St. Paddy's Parade seemed evident in the past week. Friday the SPQ's held their annual ball at the Hilton instead of Hal and Mal's restaurant citing space issues. Saturday the queens brought up the rear of the parade instead of leading the way.
"It's better for downtown if we go last, but its worse for our fundraising efforts," said Browne.
A plan is in place to have fundraising efforts span a full year to benefit Blair E. Batson. Browne believes separating the Sweet Potato Queens' events from Mal's St. Paddy's Parade will only raise more money for the children's hospital.
"There will be two events for Batson so everyone wins," said Browne.
Parade founder Malcolm White gave WLBT the following statement: "The show goes on. Mal's 29th St. Paddy's Parade will be on the third Saturday in March 2011 in Jackson, Mississippi as it has for the last 28 years. We wish Jill and the Sweet Potato Queens all the best."
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