3,000 March for St. Patrick's Day : Scouts, Shriners Lead Procession Through Mission Viejo

Times Staff Writer

Through the lens of their camera, Jack and Margaret Fraser captured on film about 3,000 people marching down Marguerite Parkway on Saturday--from Shriners in dune buggies to singing Girl Scouts like their granddaughter--as Mission Viejo's 17th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade snaked by on its colorful course.

The couple, born in the Scottish city of Aberdeen and now residents of Orange, had come to see their granddaughter and her Daisy Scout troop dance by at the start of the parade, but they stayed for the rest of the 2 1/2-hour pageant anyway. "It should make a good home movie," said Jack Fraser, 63, who beckoned the attention of some otherwise bored-looking boys passing in a pickup truck.

"Smile, you're on candid camera," he called out, a lilting burr in his voice as he pointed his auto-focus power zoom. "As long as you're Irish, come into the picture now!

"We're Scottish," he explained to a nearby spectator with a grin, "but you gotta be Irish today, ya know!"

Different Modes of Travel

The Frasers were among an estimated 6,000 onlookers who lined the sidewalks along Marguerite and Alicia parkways, some of them shinnying up light poles and climbing retaining walls to get a better view as the floats, classic cars, community groups and home-grown Olympic medalists in the parade inched along the hilly, four-mile route.

Some rode along with the paraders on skateboards and 10-speeds with Kelly-green balloons strewn behind, but most spectators watched from beach chairs and blankets, making an afternoon picnic out of the sunny day.

The largest categories of participants were Scouts and Shriners, organizers said, each group about 500 strong. Roughly an equal number came from other youth groups in the Saddleback Valley area.

Joe Orlando, a member of the Mission Viejo Activities Committee, which organized the parade, said there were 100 entries in the St. Patrick's Day celebration.

"About 9 million, three thousand and 70 of them scouts," he joked.

Having chosen "It's a Small World" as their theme, scores of Girl Scout troops dressed in ethnic customes like kimonos and Dutch wooden shoes, giving the Irish affair an international flavor.

Because of the parade's size, Orlando's biggest task was to keep the groups moving along on schedule. Working near the beginning of the parade route, he spoke with other organizers by two-way radio.

"We're about 10 minutes behind," he said into his radio. "If the Shriners would move we'd be OK. There's so many of them!"

One of the colorful floats depicted the old woman who lived in a shoe, compliments of the Mission Viejo Beautiful Committee, a local group that provides home tours and awards to residents for outstanding landscaping and "generally helps encourage beautifying the community."

Another entry was from the Saddleback Board of Realtors, whose members dressed in medieval costumes and rode in a float that said "Your Home Is Your Castle."

Rock Band Played

A rock band from the Saddleback Valley Teen Center blasted out songs from a flatbed truck, dressed in heavy metal-type duds that one woman wryly said she thought were "against the law to wear in Mission Viejo."

Most of the participants hailed from the Saddleback Valley area, but Orlando and Charlie Ware, another organizer, said just about any person or group--no matter how small or large--is allowed to participate in the yearly parade, just so they keep up with the rest.

Other parade entries ranged from a shiny trash truck to a golf cart adorned with Polynesian decor and a plastic parrot, ferrying four women from the Luau Leilanis, a group of Hawaiian dancers from Leisure World in Laguna Hills.

Good Crowd Response

All of the paraders were met with applause and cheers from the crowd, including the Frasers, who, dressed in Kelly green, were still standing in the middle of Marguerite Parkway more than two hours after granddaughter Amy Smith, a Lake Forest kindergartener, marched by, waving with her Daisy Scout troop. "Oh, we love parades anyway," Fraser said, capturing the mood of most spectators.

"The St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago--there is the best we've ever seen. They dye the Chicago River green. I don't know what they use but it's beautiful," he said, adding, "This has been beautiful, too."

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