Talk about a time-honored tradition! This unique St. Paddy’s Day celebration dates all the way back to 1908. Over the course of its 114 years, it has only grown bigger and better, with the leadup time starting in fall of the prior year.

Photo courtesy of Missouri S&T

By Peg Cameron Gill

The wearin’ o’ the green never wears out its welcome at Missouri S&T each March, largely because Saint Patrick is the patron saint of engineers. For 114 years, the school has gone all out to prepare for its St. Paddy’s Day Celebration. Things slither off to a start with a snake invasion during the first week of March.

On March 13, the follies start, and the St. Paddy’s Day court arrives. Friday, March 17 is chock full of antics and activities, including Gonzo and Games, a Gonzo carnival, Cudgel Judging, the Court Coronation, and Greenest House Judging.

On Saturday, the parade steps off at 11 am, followed by the Grateful Board Festival, St. Pat’s Concert, and Award Ceremony. 

The college’s legendary St. Paddy’s Day celebration began in 1908, when the University of Missouri-Columbia invited Rolla’s School of Mines to send a delegate to witness Mizzou’s St. Pat’s ceremonies. Rolla elected J.H.Bowles to attend.

But the Miners refused to just leave it be. They wanted a celebration of their own in Rolla. So a committee was appointed by the student body and tasked with arranging it. The committee had to meet secretly, however, since March 17th was a school day.

On March 16th, committee aides spend almost all night decorating the entrance to Norwood Hall. Others were busy blanketing the town with bills declaring a holiday the next day and asking all students to meet at the depot at 8 am the next morning.

Many students were skeptical, and the faculty was quite opposed to the idea. Nonetheless, March 17, 1908, was declared a holiday by popular vote of the student body. On the morning of St. Paddy’s, “St. Pat” (in the form of George Menefee) arrived at the Grand Central Station. He was met by a crowd armed with shillelaghs and wearing green sashes. 

Word has it that as the party progressed, the faculty was upset by the lack of students in their classes. They met in the office of School Director Dr. Lewis E. Young and demanded he do something. Dr. Young’s secretary (who was rumored to be sweet on George Menefee), overheard and took her lunch early, rushing to the station to alert the novice St. Pat.

Unphased by the news, Menefee boarded his chariot and led the students in a slipshod parade to the arched entrance of Norwood Hall. There he encountered the faculty, arms crossed and clearly mad. Ever charming, Menefee dismounted, and with his shillelagh raised like a scepter, made his way through the sea of faculty up to the top step. There, in the name of Saint Patrick, he bid Dr. Young to kneel.

The situation was tense, but Dr. Young, new to the job and well-liked by students and faculty, saw the chance for a happy outcome. He took to a knee as St. Patrick said, “Dr. Young, I dub you the first Honorary Knight of Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Engineers.”

And so began a St. Paddy’s Day celebration like no other. If you’re looking for a fun and novel way to celebrate this year, make your way to Rolla. Search for the largest shamrock on campus, catch the parade, and embrace all the blarney.

For hundreds more events, visit Missouri Life’s Event Calendar.