Grove City's 2009 St. Patrick's Day parade was huge.

Grove City's 2009 St. Patrick's Day parade was huge.

At least, it was by the standards set in the 2008 edition.

That year, the event's first, the entire parade consisted of seven people. That included 8-year-old Austin Dover, who happened to be in Plank's Restaurant when the six organizers came in wearing special T-shirts. He asked his mom, Heather Dover, if he could join. She said that he could, and he did.

The organizers converged on Plank's for a bit of refreshment before setting off on the arduous course - from the restaurant at Broadway and Park Street north a few short blocks to Columbus Street.

The founding half dozen, according to Pam Willis, were uniformly greeted with the same reaction when they entered the restaurant on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day last year:

"You're going to do what?"

This year, the parade fell on Saturday, March 13. The growth in the number of participants, recruited solely by word of mouth and a few e-mails, was nothing less than astonishing, according to Willis.

"We had 27," she said.

Willis and her husband, Robert, moved to central Ohio from Kansas City two years ago. While Columbus and especially Dublin have admirable St. Patrick's Day parades, Pam Willis said that the one back in Kansas City is often reckoned as one of the largest in the country.

But it had humble beginnings, she said. It was started, Pam Willis claimed, by two Irishmen walking from one pub to another. The parade's official Web site has a different explanation, one involving priests leading a procession.

Still, Pam and Robert Willis found their idea of the parade's founding to be both charming and more than a little probable.

"My husband and I said, 'We could do that.' "

And so they did, last year and again this year. This year, even with their ranks swelled to nearly 30 people, Pam Willis said that they wisely waited until halftime of the Ohio State University-Michigan State Big 10 Tournament game to set off.

The 2-month-old grandson of the Willises was the youngest participant, while several in the group were grandparents.

"It's just people celebrating their Irish heritage," Pam Willis said.

"We are anticipating some day to have a big event," according to Jim Dover, whose son Austin was in the inaugural parade.

"Of course we want to see it grow again," Pam Willis said. "Ten years down the road, who knows ... we might say we started with seven of us and look at it now.

"It will be fun to see when it gets to 100. I don't know if that will be next year or the following year."

She does know that right now the Grove City St. Patrick's Day parade isn't exactly putting too much of a strain on Town Center's resources.

"So far you don't have to get up too early and go find a parking space," Willis said.

It's also not the most tightly run ship in the navy of parades.

"We get the parade going when everybody feels like it," she said.