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Man cited in St. Patrick's paint tradition

Published on -3/19/2014, 9:40 AM

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TONGANOXIE, Kan. (AP) -- For all but one of the 26 years Tonganoxie has had a St. Patrick's parade, someone has painted a green stripe along the downtown street where the procession takes place.

The painted line traditionally has been blamed on "leprechauns," but on Saturday morning Tonganoxie police cited a local businessman after authorities said he was caught green-handed.

Charlie "Tuna" Conrad started painting the line up the street about 5:15 a.m. in advance of the town's parade, which was to start a few hours later, the Lawrence Journal-World (http://bit.ly/1d9Gdbo ) reported. He started at the beginning of the parade route near his restaurant, Flashbacks, and got the length of a few storefronts when a Tonganoxie officer stopped him and asked for identification.

Conrad was issued a citation for misdemeanor criminal damage to property and is to appear in court April 17.

"The day we can't put a line down the street is the day it needs to end," Conrad said Sunday.

The green line is a tradition to honor the parade's founder, John McCaffrey, a longtime youth baseball coach who started the event in the late 1980s and died in 2002.

Several people have helped paint the line over the years, and local police officers have even blocked early morning traffic in the past so the line could be painted, Conrad said.

Nathan McCommon, who has been the city administrator since 2012, said the line was a traffic hazard and that painting it violated city law. He said he recalled a conversation with Conrad last year about the line being illegal, but Conrad didn't indicate at the time he was doing the painting.

Conrad said four business owners have approached him about chipping in to cover any fine he might have to pay for the ticket, and others also have offered money.

He said he's not trying to cause any problems for the city, but is carrying on a tradition.

"I'm trying to do what people expect to see," Conrad said. "I do it out of respect for John McCaffrey."

McCommon said Monday he just became aware of the history of the green line, and he hopes a more temporary substance can be used in future parades.

"I think he's got some washable options if he's willing to go that route," McCommon said.

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