The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade turns 15 next March, and Napoleon Dynamite will be there to fire the starter’s pistol marking the beginning of Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas’s, annual celebration of zany fun and frivolity.
Jon Heder, who became an overnight sensation and gained an instant cult following with his feature film debut in the title role of the offbeat comedy “Napoleon Dynamite,” has agreed to be the official starter for the 2018 parade, according to Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs and one of the creators of the annual 98-foot march down Bridge Street.
“Jon’s personality will fit right in with the atmosphere of fun that is the hallmark of our great little parade,” Arrison said.
Heder’s endearing portrayal of Napoleon Dynamite, a nerdy high schooler who helps his friend Pedro get elected class president, was a huge financial success and brought him two MTV Movie Awards, one in the category of “Breakthrough Male” and a second for “Best Musical Performance” for his crowd-pleasing election night dance.
Heder met “Napoleon Dynamite” director Jared Hess while both were studying film at Brigham Young University; the director first cast him in a short film, “Peluca.”
In 2007, Heder starred opposite Will Ferrell in the hit comedy, “Blades of Glory,” which took in close to $120 million at the domestic box office. In addition to his live-action roles, Heder also returned to animation that year ,voicing the character of ‘Chicken Joe’ in Columbia Pictures’ “Surfs Up,” after previously voicing a role in Columbia’s “Monster House.”
Heder also starred in the feature films “The Benchwarmers,” “School for Scoundrels” and “Just Like Heaven” with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo. Additionally, he starred opposite Paul Dano in the Sundance hit, “For Ellen.”
In 2016 he landed a leading role in the FOX comedy pilot, “No Place Like Home.”
Most recently, Heder can be heard as the voice of “Pickle” in the new Disney XD hit show, “Pickle and Peanut,” and can be seen in the indie film, “The Tiger Hunter.”
Since its beginning in 2003, the parade has brought positive international attention to Hot Springs as a place to visit for fun and entertainment.
The 2018 parade will begin at 7:30 p.m., an hour later than in previous years. It is starting later because of the running of The Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Arrison said. “The later start will allow Oaklawn fans plenty of time to enjoy the live racing and get downtown for the start of the parade,” he said.
The parade annually attracts crowds of upwards of 30,000 people to watch an insanely zany collection of Irish Elvis impersonators, green Irish wolfhounds, marching units such as Paddy O’Furniture, Irish belly dancers and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, as well as bands and other unique units cover the 98-foot length of Bridge Street in the heart of downtown Hot Springs.