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The luck of Rush County

By GAYLE WEBER

gweber@dailynews.net

RUSH CENTER --  One car --  that's how the St. Patrick's Day Celebration here began more than two decades ago. On Saturday, approximately 70 more cars joined the party, along with hundreds of people, as the 24th annual event celebrated St. Patrick's Day and the Rush Center community.

Relay for Life teams sold food, a couple teams raced beds through the streets, Irish stew kept the people warm, and most importantly, hundreds of people filled the community of 160.

"It's nice to see the excitement coming to town," said Roger Oliverius of Rush Center.

Oliverius has been helping with the St. Patrick's Day parade since it began, running the lime green stop/slow sign at the corner of U.S. Highway 183 and Kansas Highway 96 where the parade route turns.

"It's good to see so many people come to town to help us celebrate," he said.

That includes Sandy Showalter, her three daughters, Ella, Molly and Maggie, and her mother-in-law Patricia.

"It's a yearly thing for us," Sandy Showalter said after warming up with soup at the Walnut Valley Senior Center.

"They love the parade and the kids' games," she said of her children.

"And we love to see the friends and visit with people we haven't seen since last year," added Patricia Showalter of Bazine.

The day is designed with the whole family in mind. A car show, food vendors, bed races, parade, craft show. And of course, beer. You name it, the St. Patrick's Day Celebration has it.

Virginia Keener, one of the original organizers of the event who still volunteers, said it started because a Rush Center man bought a new car right before St. Patrick's Day and wanted to show it off.

"He called everybody and said bring a tractor, a car and let's have a parade," Keener said.

Little did the town know how large the event would grow.

"Effie (Crowell) made green beer, and we started at 10:30 in the morning, and we had green beer and cookies," Keener said.

Pretty soon a meal and kids' games were added. The car show became a staple a few years later, and bed races made their first appearance last year.

* * *

For nearly as long at the St. Patrick's Day Celebration has been around, the Walnut Valley Senior Center has been providing a place for Rush Center residents to gather.

It began more than 15 years ago -- though the actual date is a bit foggy to some of the charter members -- in the former school building in Rush Center.

"The school was closed, and there was an opportunity to purchase the building and utilize it for the community rather than just let the building sit and deteriorate like it has in so many other communities," said Betty Misegadis, one of those charter members.

The senior center hosts a potato bar once a month from September to May.

"I think they come more for the visiting than they do for the food," Misegadis said.

On Saturday, the group served soup and desserts. All the proceeds from the senior center's fundraising projects go toward maintaining the school grounds, and a museum and library have been established in the senior center building.