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Alexandria’s ‘Mango’ Mike Anderson is grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Mango Mike Anderson in Del Ray (staff photo by James Cullum)

He’s not remotely Irish, but Alexandria restaurant owner “Mango” Mike Anderson is the grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday.

A local celebrity of sorts, Anderson will lead the parade down King Street and to the reviewing stand on Royal Street in the heart of Old Town.

“I have been devoted to Alexandria for more than 50 years, not only as a homeowner but as a business owner,” Anderson said. “I hear there’s going to be 25,000 people there. It’s just terrific to have this kind of honor. I truly consider Alexandria to be my hometown.”

Turns out that this is the second consecutive parade where Anderson is the grand marshal, since he’s a Living Legend of Alexandria. All of the Living Legends were honorary parade marshals at the George Washington Birthday Parade earlier this month.

“Alexandria is the greatest,” Anderson said. “You’ve got history, proximity to the nation’s capital, and the great variety of people who live in the city. Almost everybody who lives in Alexandria is pretty passionate about it, which you can see at the city council meetings. This stuff creates a great community, and I also happen to be a proud member of this city’s restaurant community.”

Anderson is co-owner of the Homegrown Restaurant Group, which includes Pork Barrel BBQHoly Cow Del Ray, Del Ray’s pop-up bar, Whisky & OysterSweet Fire Donna’s and Tequila & Taco. He moved to Alexandria in the early 1970s and opened his first restaurant, Irish-themed Shooter McGee’s in 1979. He later owned and operated the Caribbean-themed Mango Mike’s in the West End for nearly 20 years.

Bill Blackburn is Anderson’s partner, and said that he doesn’t like to do things small, or simply.

“One of Mike’s favorite sayings is, if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly,” Blackburn said. “I think he lives by those words. He doesn’t like to do anything small. From 30-foot-tall palm trees at Mango Mike’s to 30-foot tall Christmas trees in Del Ray, he’s always going bigger.”

Anderson, who is married to Donna (of Sweet Fire Donna’s), is known for creating outlandish spectacles, including scouting for the Del Ray Christmas tree by air (he’s a pilot and owns two small planes) and paying for it to get cut down, delivered and erected every year. His itch to open new restaurants is tempered, he says, by the seasonal transformations at the Del Ray pop-up bar. Right now it’s an Aspen-themed ski lodge with a gondola parked out front.

Few city events, however, are as spectacular as a parade, and Anderson said that he was always jealous of Pat Troy, the founder of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and owner of the now-closed Ireland’s Own bar in Old Town.

“I was always pretty jealous of Pat,” Anderson said. “He was able to put together this terrific parade that’s transcended him and has lasted 41 years. I’m just so pleased to be a part of it this year.”

The Ballyshaners announced Anderson as parade marshal in January.

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