For over thirty years, Mississippi has come to know and love the Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade. This year, parade organizer Malcolm White lovingly changed the parade to the “Hal’s” St. Paddy’s Day Parade in honor of his late brother Hal, who ran the ever-popular regional establishment Hal and Mal’s since it opened in the late eighties.
Since the parade’s inception, the only krewe that has stood the test of time is the Rude Men. The Rude Men krewe got its start at a Millsaps College fraternity pickup game of basketball and were affectionately called “The Rude Boys” by other Millsaps intramural basketball teams in 1983-1984. Founding members Wendee Wolfe and her brother Raymond, Trace Alston, and Morrell Richardson, along with classmates from college and high school, decided to join parade founder Malcolm White for some much needed fun in Jackson. While the “boys” grew up throughout the years, changing their name to “Rude Men,” the krewe is still thriving with close to one hundred krewe members, and due to their popularity with the Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade, the membership keeps expanding.
Richardson, a founding member of the Shamrock Gator Society krewe, and Alston, a founder of The Rude Men, first met as rival St. Paddy’s Day Parade krewe members in the parade’s early days. However, they have always been close acquaintances. Their mothers were Belhaven University roommates and are still best friends to this day. After several years of fierce but friendly rivalry on and off the state capital’s parade routes, the Shamrock Gator Society disbanded and combined with The Rude Men in the nineties. With Richardson’s abundant supply of imagination, along with Alston’s college degree in engineering and natural-born creativity, this dynamic duo has made sure the St. Paddy’s Day crowd gets their share of fun during the parade for nearly twenty years.
“Our floats are highly unsophisticated engineering. We are popular because we are totally animated and homemade. Our float is usually made from donated scraps of material, such as cardboard, carpet, junk parts, you name it, and we can do more with less. And we’re the only krewe that includes our tow vehicle in the float,” Richardson stated.
“Psychedelic folk art love movement on steroids,” adds Alston, accompanied by a big hearty laugh. “Dr. Seuss engineering at its finest,” chimes in Richardson, causing everyone at the table to erupt with laughter. “The people know we love to have fun, and they love to have fun with us. We never want that to end,” Alston said.
Both Rude Men state that, while the parade has an annual theme, the float may not go in the direction of the theme. This year’s parade theme is Hal’leluY’ALL, and will be held on Saturday, March 19th, at 1 p.m. in downtown Jackson.
“There may be one theme, but there are hundreds of ideas that we use on our float,” Richardson says. “The crowd and the judges want to see us do something totally outside the box, and that’s what makes us stand out.”
The Rude Men have had everything from walking krewes, mechanically engineered sea turtles, pirate ships, tanks, female robots, a giant squid fighting a sperm whale and a certain incident involving Elvis and the Bucket Heads (a.k.a. judges for the St. Paddy’s Day Parade.)
“In the early nineties, we had an Elvis theme for our float, and we gave the Bucket Heads a few jelly doughnuts, since it was known that Elvis loved them. All of a sudden, the judges started throwing them back at us, then we started throwing the doughnuts back at them and an all out food fight started. Because of The Rude Men, the parade officials have officially banned any food to be given to the judges,” Richardson and Alston add laughing.
When Richardson and Alston were asked if they will ever quit doing parades, both of them emphatically answered “no time soon.”
“The crowd and judges expect us to be there and look forward to us performing for them. Everyone should come to the St. Paddy’s Day Parade to see The Rude Men. It’s street theater,” said Richardson with Alston adding, “I can’t quit because my children Alexander and Mary were raised building floats and participating in the parades from birth until now, and they’ll never let it die.”
For more information on the newly christened Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade, visit halandmals.com. If you would like to be a part of the Rude Men krewe, follow them on their Facebook page ‘Rude Men.’