‘Twas A Great Day To Be Irish
by Dan Voigt
The temperature was moderate, the sun tried to do its part and there was just a breeze to contend with, along with a great crowd for Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. The 2011 St. Patrick’s Celebration came to a close over the weekend after creating lots of memories and renewing old friendships during the annual celebration of Irish Pride in Emmetsburg.
That Irish Pride was easy to find on Saturday during the St. Pat’s parade, which treated a huge crowd lining Broadway to over 80 units of all kinds. The Pre-Parade opened the afternoon’s event, with visiting dignitaries and special guests making the trip down Broadway, following the traditional green stripe down the center of the parade route. Irish dignitary David Stanton and his wife Mary were driven in a horse-drawn carriage down the parade route, and were joined on the reviewing stand by Governor Terry Branstad, who noted this was his 14th St. Patrick’s Day Parade spent in Emmetsburg. Joining the Governor was State Senator John Kibbie along with State Representative John Wittneben and Iowa State Auditor Dave Vaudt along with Emmetsburg Mayor John Schad and Citizen of the Year Donna Kunz.
As has become a tradition, the Friendly Sons of Ireland also held a place in the pre-parade, with representation of the families of Gilman and Donahue, featuring Grand Marshall Dorothy Gilman, along with the O’Brien, Brennan, McNally, Joyce, Higgins, Nolan, McCain and Joynt families marching down the route. The pre-parade concluded with a performance by the Irish Dancers, and then a special event took place, a wedding in the middle of Broadway, in front of the statue of Robert Emmet. Melinda Gramer and Matt Marges exchanged vows and rings in a brief ceremony at the reviewing stand, witnessed by David and Mary Stanton, as well as Governor Branstad, Senator Kibbie and Representative Wittneben.
After the 2011 Little Lassie, Annie Brennan sang “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” to start the official parade, the colors were escorted down the parade route and followed by St. Patrick, in the form of Emmetsburg resident Marge Mills, dressed as the patron saint of Ireland. The Miss Shamrock titleholders, Chelsey Rouse, BriAna Campbell, Annie Brennan and Tatum Iverson, smiled and waved their way along the parade route on the St. Pat’s Association float.
The Robert Emmet Society featured Emmetsburg native Bill Henry representing the Irish patriot and namesake of the community. There were clowns galore, animal units and candy lots of candy and beads.
A parade has to have a band, and perennial crowd favorites the Brian Boru Pipe Band once again marched, with the skirl of the pipes filling the air throughout the parade route. And for good measure, the Emmetsburg High School and Middle School Bands joined forces to march in the parade and favor the crowds.
Various businesses and groups offered floats, along with representatives of fire departments in the county, including Emmetsburg’s 1916 fire engine, a fixture in the St. Pat’s parades, was joined by units from the Mallard, Rodman and Cylinder fire departments also participating.
The traditional close to the parade came in the form of the Pony Express Riders of Palo Alto County. With flags flying proudly, the Pony Express Riders stretched their columns of horses for nearly three blocks as they rode along the parade route.