Tonganoxie man cited for painting traditional green stripe down Fourth Street
A green stripe has been painted down Fourth Street all but one year of the St. Patrick’s Parade through downtown Tonganoxie.
It always was said that “leprechauns” painted the green line along the downtown street.
Saturday morning, the tradition’s luck ran out.
Charlie “Tuna” Conrad started painting a green line up the street about 5:15 a.m. Saturday in advance of the town’s parade, set to start a few hours later.
He started to paint near Fourth and Main, the start of the parade route and home to his restaurant, Flashbacks. Conrad painted the length of a few storefronts when a Tonganoxie police officer stopped him. He said the officer asked whether he was Tuna and then asked for a driver’s license.
The officer cited Conrad for criminal damage to property.
He’s to appear in municipal court at 1 p.m. April 17 in Tonganoxie City Council Chambers for the misdemeanor charge.
“The day we can’t put a line down the street is the day it needs to end,” Conrad said Sunday about the parade.
He said it’s been tradition to honor parade founder John McCaffrey with the green line. Several people have helped paint the line over the years, Conrad said. Even some police officers have blocked early morning traffic so the line could be painted, he said.
But Nathan McCommon, Tonganoxie City Administrator, said the line was a traffic hazard and painting it a violation.
He said he recalled a conversation with Conrad last year about the line being a city violation, but Conrad didn’t’ indicate at the time that he was doing the painting. And, thus, McCommon didn’t realize Conrad was painting the stripe.
Conrad said four business owners had approached him about chipping in to cover any fine he would have to pay next month at his court appearance. Others also have offered money.
He said he’s not trying to cause any problems for the city; simply carrying on tradition.
“I’m trying to do what people expect to see,” Conrad said. “I do it out of respect for John McCaffrey.”
McCaffrey was a longtime youth baseball coach who started the parade in the late 1980s. He died in 2002.
McCommon said Monday he just became aware of the history that came with the line, but he hopes a more temporary substance could be used in future parades.
“I think he’s got some washable options if he’s willing to go that route,” McCommon said.
Faint remnants from last year’s striping still can be seen down Fourth Street.
In 1997, a Lawrence Journal-World story told of the painting to be more public. In fact, Himpel Lumber donated paint to the cause, according to the story.
In 2012, The Mirror wrote a light-hearted feature on the anonymous leprechaun, who happened to be Conrad.
McCommon became city administrator later that year.