Horse racing fans who are St. Patrick’s Day enthusiasts will find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow next weekend in Hot Springs. On Saturday, Oaklawn Park offers its second most well-attended card, featuring the $1 million Rebel Stakes. This Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prep race drew an estimated crowd of 37,500 people last year. On Sunday, over 30,000 people will line 98-foot Bridge Street, the shortest-working street in America, and surrounding areas for the First Ever 16th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
This year, the Rebel, which offers 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, could be especially memorable: Oaklawn announced it is considering splitting the Rebel into two divisions. The decision will be made by Wednesday. If two Rebels are run, each division will carry a purse of $750,000 and offer 63.75 Kentucky Derby points. This would be first time in American racing history for a million dollar race to be split and run in two divisions.
Weather permitting, Oaklawn’s infield will be open for the first time this season. This park-within-a-park offers a beer garden, live music and food trucks. The kid zone features inflatables, a petting zoo and mascots. Oaklawn plans for the infield to be open every Saturday from the Rebel until Kentucky Derby day, which is Oaklawn’s closing day this year.
The First Ever 16th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebration spans the entire weekend. A new tradition kicks off the festivities Friday evening: the First Ever First Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Zero K footrace. Registration for the parade-route race sold out before the end of February. On Saturday evening, Smash Mouth will give a free performance.
Sunday’s parade is consistently ranked as one of the top St. Patrick’s Day events in the country. This year, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Ellen DeGeneres’ favorite DJ and “So You Think You Can Dance” star, will be the official starter. Ralph Macchio serves as Grand Marshal.
King and Queen honors go to Scott McClard and Dona Pettey. McClard is a fourth-generation co-owner and operator of the legendary 90-year-old McClard’s Bar-B-Q, which native son President Bill Clinton proclaimed to be the best in the world. Pettey and her husband Mike own the Ohio Club, Arkansas’s oldest bar. It was a hangout for gangsters like Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel during prohibition. Pettey is the lead singer of The Ohio Club players, who perform every weekend during Oaklawn’s meet. McClard and Pettey will officiate a wedding before the start of the parade.
The parade is limited to 40 entries and will highlight traditional favorites like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and the International Order of the Irish Elvi. This year, the 72-foot Big Idaho Potato will almost fill the entire length of Bridge Street. The evening will conclude with a free concert by Three Dog Night.