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Dr. Nimit Sudan set a record by collecting the most votes ever cast in the six-year Grand Leprechaun contest on his way to winning the title.

DUBLIN ON FRENCH CREEK — Utility wires crossing Chestnut Street in festive downtown Meadville are being raised this morning as the tallest Grand Leprechaun wearing the tallest Grand Leprechaun hat in Grand Leprechaun history prepares to make an historic march.

Nimit Sudan, who doesn’t have to go too far up on his tippie-toes to hit 7 feet tall, was the winner in the sixth annual race for the honor of wearing the coveted hat in today’s Jack Curtin St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration. Ironically, and coincidentally, this year’s hat also soars to new heights, adding at least a yard (that’s three full feet, to the arithmetically challenged) to Sudan’s already towering figure.

Two more records came crashing down with the counting of the votes. With 4,132 votes, Sudan brought in the highest number of votes ever cast for a single candidate. And if that isn’t enough, the overall total of 10,941 votes also broke all existing records, running circles around the 7,847 votes cast just a year ago.

With each vote costing $1 and 90 percent of the proceeds going to the charities of the candidates’ choice, the Jack Curtin Stimulus Package gave a substantial boost to the local economy while proving once and for all that when the going gets tough, this community really gets going.

The winner, a physician at Vernon Township’s Oncology Wellness Institute — now known as the Yolanda Barco Oncology Institute — credits a large part of his successful campaign to being the only one in the room who can reach whatever’s on the top shelf. “That and a supportive staff and patients made it happen,” he said. His charity is the institute’s benevolent fund, which helps cancer patients meet the many expenses they may encounter along the treatment road.

While Sudan originally announced that he and his wife would be out of town for parade weekend, those plans quickly changed. “We found more and more about what this is about — and about how strong the support of the community is,” he said during the gala Friday-night awards dinner on the campus of Allegheny College. “Here we are.”

Trish Niwa, the write-in candidate from the Deerhead Inn, finished an impressive second with 1,477 votes.

Officer Mike Tautin, who was dead last in the semifinal count, roared to a third-place finish with 1,294 votes. Asked for the secret of his last-minute surge, “I believe it was my strategerie,” the City of Meadville’s School Safety Officer said modestly. “Toward the end, I went the manly route and begged.”

Campaigning under the banner “O’Gorske for Leprechaun — the only Polish Leprechaun,” Randy Gorske credits hard work and green flower with his ability to collect 1,056 votes. With boxes in approximately a dozen locations between Meadville and Cambridge Springs, where he serves as mayor, Gorske was in Cambridge Springs collecting votes half an hour before the Meadville deadline. “During the last week, one of my staff bought me a green clip-on St. Patrick’s Day flower,” he said. “I milked it for all it was worth. Whenever I had the floor to speak, that flower opened the door to be able to talk about why I was wearing it. Persistence works.”

For Emmy (Emerald — really!) Arnett Duffy, family and friends were the secret weapons that enabled her to gather 1,424 votes.

Elizabeth “The Cookie Lady” Vozar had the time of her life — and it showed. With the help of a lot of gold-sprinkled, coin-shaped cookies, she captured 848 votes.

The Meadville Tribune publisher Sharon Sorg also had a great time being a lucky leprechaun candidate, she said, bringing in 675 votes.

And a second write-in candidate, Mr. Froggie of WGYY-FM and WGYI-FM radio fame, made his first appearance in the vote totals when he turned in 431 votes.

Mr. Froggie’s charity of choice was listed as Crawford County Homeless Outreach. The one-man organization is familiar to shoppers in the Downtown Mall, where, until today, Dwight Huston worked from a table in the concourse. According to information provided by Huston, who said Friday was his last day in the mall, his program provides help with sources for food and clothing for those in need; gives information on resources that are available through different agencies and organizations; supplies referrals to the various agencies so that they may provide necessary help; and provides help with finding a job.

Checks for the charities will be distributed in approximately two weeks during a public gathering of candidates and representatives from their charities, according to parade coordinator Eileen Mullen. Details will be announced.



Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com

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