The wee people themselves will be adding the legend of Meadville’s Grand Leprechaun to the stories they tell when gathered together in the magical glens of the old sod.

The victor in this year’s race to wear the coveted green hat in Saturday’s 19th annual Jack Curtin St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration was again a write-in candidate sponsored, of course, by Mickey’s Central Fire Station Restaurant and Lounge. However, in a plot twist that would make the finest of the Irish tale-spinners proud, the winner was actually on the ballot — but withdrew in a ploy to open the write-in floodgate that has swept Mickey’s candidate to victory in three out of three competitions.

In a move consistent with his conduct throughout the race, Mullen was out of town when the results were announced. Well-tanned and wearing green vest fleece and a Fighting Irish pin, he swept into Mickey’s, the place where victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat during the closing hours of the race.

“I’m actually shaking,” Mullen said. “I’m nervous and humbled.”

He wasn’t the only one shaking. Contender Alice Sjolander’s eyes were flashing Irish green as she demanded a recount in a surprise maneuver that is keeping all results in “unofficial” limbo until further notice.

Mullen’s campaign was managed by the legendary Annie Mackiewicz, who masterminded the stunning victories of J.P. Daly in 2004 and Martin Gallagher in 2005.

“First of all,” she said when the results were announced, “Tim Mullen owes his buddies — Dave Stone, Greg Wasko and J.P. Daly — at least a kidney. At least. As of yesterday, we didn’t have even a hundred votes.”

During a blitz that started around 5 p.m. Wednesday, Mullen’s total soared to 2,298 votes — leaving the 1,439 votes Bob Stevens thought guaranteed a win in the dust.

“Third place! I’ll take it!” enthused Gretchen Myers, who finished the race with 1,090 votes. Always the good sport, unlike Stevens, Myers has promised to march in Saturday’s parade. In fact, she’s threatening to bring a veritable green wave with her — led by as many as 50 tap dancers.

Mickey’s however, should take note. While they may have captured the hat in all three Grand Leprechaun races so far, the write-in campaign waged at Deerhead Inn earned a fourth-place finish for write-in candidate Ray Smith with 753 votes.

Vernon challengers Bill Malady and Terry SanFelice, who roared off to a fast start in the competition, finished with 585 and 490 votes respectively. Until the results are finalized, Sjolander’s count stands at a hotly-contested 210.

At a dollar a vote, this could not be described as a cheap race. And with voters encouraged to vote early and often, more than a little arm-twisting may have been involved. Rumors of flying shillelaghs could not be confirmed.

“We did a darned good job,” Stevens said of his supporters. “I was hoping to get at least $1,000 to the American Cancer Society, and we did better than that. Seventy-five percent of the proceeds collected will be donated to the charity of each candidate’s choice; the balance will benefit the parade committee.

“Here’s the motivation,” Wasko said of Mullen’s sweeping victory. “Tim’s down bellying up to the bar with Mickey — down in Florida — and we’re all his friends and we thought we ought to toe the line for him. He’d do the same thing for us if he were here.”

In fact, according to Daly, that’s exactly what Mullen did during Daly’s run for the hat two years ago.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at

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