Area events celebrate Irish tradition

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


From a parade in Emmetsburg to a nature program close to home, area organizations have plans in place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.


Photo by Seth Boyes

St. Patrick’s Day is all about the green.

Although environmental education coordinator Bryanna Kuhlman might have a different spin on it than most during the St. Patty’s Pajama Party 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 16, at the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji.

Wear your favorite pajamas — Kuhlman said she is still searching for some green ones to fit the theme — and head out to the nature center with your family for a spirited time.

"We will meet green friends and learn about green things in the environment," Kuhlman said.

Participants will get to meet green nature center animal ambassadors including Capone the baby snapping turtle, Leo the northern leopard frog and Annie the painted turtle. Kuhlman will also read the story "Green" by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, serve a green treat and then help everyone make their own green slime to take home.

"I thought it would be fun to have a spring event, and green reminds me of spring," Kuhlman said. "I thought it would be good to enjoy the nature center at a different time of day and talk about the coming season."

The free program will cater to children ages 3-10 and their guardians, but other ages are also welcome to attend.

"I'm most looking forward to making slime with families," Kuhlman said. "It will be a fun green experiment."

To pre-register for the program, call 712-336-6352. Pre-registration is helpful but not required.

If residents enjoy Friday evening programs, they should mark their calendars for the Dickinson County Nature Center’s new "Nature at Night" series coming this summer. Free, family-friendly programs will be held 8:30 p.m. June 15 with the theme Exploring the Night, 7:30 p.m. July 20 about fireflies and 8 p.m. Aug. 17 on stargazing.

For more information on Dickinson County Nature Center’s free year-round programs, visit, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


There is plenty of food and fun beginning Thursday, March 15 in Emmetburg. An open house at St. Pat's Headquarters, an Irish baked potato bar and an Emmetsburg High School talent show to continue a busy schedule.

Join the St. Patrick's Association of Emmetsburg for a Chamber Coffee on Friday morning. The night starts with a fish fry and bean bag tournament.

St. Patrick's Day falls on a Saturday this year and March 17 is the busiest day of the Emmetsburg celebration — Count on the traditional parade, competitions, food and activities.

A pancake and trap shoot wraps up the event as Emmetsburg residents celebrate their rich heritage.

Harsh British rule and famine forced many Irish families to leave their homeland in search of a better life in the United States. The wide expansion of fertile prairie with tree-lined rivers and streams in Palo Alto County proved to be an ideal haven for some of these displaced people.

Emmetsburg, the Palo Alto County seat, was mostly populated by the Irish. The chosen name, after a famous Irish patriot, reflected the interest in their culture. Customs passed down from generation to generation were practiced by the young community.

One of these customs was observing the feast day of Ireland's patron saint. With the passage of time the ritual lost most of its importance until 1961. A group of Irish lads, believing "no one loves a parade more than the Irish," donned green derbies, carried their coat of arms and marched proudly through the main thoroughfare of Emmetsburg, on March 17, the feast day of Saint Patrick.

The small parade mushroomed into an elaborate three day celebration involving many hours of work and time from individuals, civic and service clubs, and businesses. The St. Patrick's Association was formed to plan and coordinate events. The organizers strive to have an entertaining program, to develop an interest in ethnic heritage and history and to commemorate St. Patrick. Many nationalities, along with the Irish, who now live in Palo Alto County and Emmetsburg, all work together to sponsor the festival.

St. Patrick's Day in Emmetsburg, like Christmas, means coming home for the holiday, where families and friends join together for a glorious time.


In 1962 Emmetsburg, Iowa and Dublin, Ireland were officially declared "Sister Cities." It has since been a privlidge and honor for the St. Pat's Association to host a member of the Irish Parliament to reign over the three day celebration. Through this association, many lasting friendships have been formed.

While visiting in the states, the Parliamentarians are given the opportunity to watch Iowa's governing bodies at work, and are invited to address both sessions the state legislature. Although some have left political life and returned to successful businesses, they keep actively in touch with affairs of the government, both at home and abroad.


The memory of patriot Robert Emmet and his struggle to free Ireland of harsh British rule, resulting in his own death, was still alive in the minds of Irishmen in the middle and late 19th century.

Such was the case in 1857, when Holihan, Cahill, Cavenaugh and Murphy — Fort Dodge residents — attempted to establish a county seat in the newly-formed Palo Alto County. The location was at the end of Five Island Lake, about where the first brick home of A.L. Ormsby or the former Tom Kelly home is. Stakes were set showing the boundaries of their town, which was to be called Emmetsburg, after their hero. Unfortunately, their money ran out and their grand plans never materialized.

Frequently, travelers following an established route from the east would inquire where Emmetsburg was and were shown the stakes, remnants of the would-be town. Martin Coonan, another Irishman, seized the opportunity and placed a sign "EMMETSBURG" on the traveled path, pointing to his homestead on the east bank of the Des Moines River.

The Coonan home became a hotel for weary travelers and before long, people began establishing businesses there to accommodate the needs of settlers coming to the county. In 1871, Emmetsburg finally became a reality with a plat laid out marking streets and lot location.


3-5 p.m. — St. Pat's Headquarters open house with Irish coffee and cookies

4:30-7 p.m. — Irish baked potato bar

Multipurpose Senior Center ($6 per plate)

7 p.m. — Emmetsburg High School talent show in the high school auditorium


9:30-10:30 a.m. — Chamber Coffee at St. Pat's Headquarters with coffee and a roll

5-7 p.m. — Fish fry at VFW Hall

5:30-10 p.m. — St. Pat's bean bag tournament in the St. Pat's heated tent at 10th & Broadway.

Warm-ups at 5:30 with the tournament beginning at 6:30 p.m.


8:30 a.m. — O'Round the Loch scholarship run at Smith Wellness Center

9 a.m to 1 p.m. — St. Pat's chili cook-off contest in the St. Pat's heated tent at 10th & Broadway

9 a.m to noon — St. Pat's Kid Zone at Corrigan Hall

9 a.m to noon — Caricatures by Lauren Naig at Corrigan Hall

9:30-11:30 a.m — Langered Frolf (Frisbee Golf) Tournament at Harrison Park, rules meeting at 9:15 a.m.

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Palo Alto County History/Celtic Cousins Family History at the multi-purpose Senior Center

10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Irish Stew at the multipurpose Senior Center (free-will offering)

11 a.m. — Chainsaw artist Jeff Klatt at Emmetsburg Fire Department front lawn, two carvings will be auctioned at the Event Tent (6 p.m.).

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Chili cook-off public tasting at St. Pat's heated tent at 10th Street and Broadway ($5 while supplies last; Russ Lachney will be performing until the parade starts)

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Potato Bar-a-Palooza a United Methodist Church (free-will donation)

Free will Donation.

1:30 p.m. — St. Patrick's Day Parade will begin on Broadway and 16th Street and move north until Broadway and 8th Street.

3 p.m. — Social Gathering of the Clans at the Emmetsburg Fire Station with food and beverages in an atmosphere for all ages.

3:30 p.m. — Free movie: "A Dog's Purpose" at Riviera Theatre

6:30-10 p.m. — Scott Larson & Keifer Brandt Band at the St. Pat's heated tent at 10th Street and Broadway


8 a.m. to noon — Rotary pancake breakfast ($6 in advance or $7 at the door) at V.F.W.

Noon to 3 p.m. — Trap shoot at Sportsman's Park

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