Preparin’ for the wearin’ o’ the green

EMMETSBURG – On the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, everything’s Irish in Emmetsburg.

The town will hold its annual celebration beginning with a talent show on Thursday and hitting its peak with the big parade Saturday afternoon.

“Generally we have about 100 entries,” said Dave VanOosbree, parade chairman.

While the parade will feature all kinds of entries, priority placing will be given to the best decorated floats.

“The casino has a really nice float. They update it every couple of years,” he said. “There are probably three or four entries that jazz it up.”

One family has also made riding in the parade a tradition.

“My dad builds a different float each year,” said Billie Jo Hoffman, board secretary for the St. Patrick’s Association.

Her father, Joe Joyce, said the Joyce family entry this year will be a 1926 Model T truck he restored. The kids will ride in the truck bed.

Joyce has been entering floats since the ’80s, he said. Last year the float was a playhouse for his granddaughter. One year, he built a float called “Finnigan’s Wake” that featured a coffin.

Why keep it up?

“I’m a full-blooded Irishman,” he said.

“I guess for us it’s been a way to connect to the community and give back to the community,” Hoffman said. “My kids have so much fun. I have a second-grader and he says ‘We’ve got to be in the parade so I can wear my kilt again.'”

The parade will pay homage to celebrations of years past, with the return of the Irish Stepperettes.

“They were a drill team that kind of took off from our Irish roots. They were like 30 girls,” VanOosbree said. “They had cowboy boots and skirts and stuff.”

The group was together from about 1970 to 1982, he said. This year, they’ll be riding on a float.

The pedal tractor pull will be Saturday morning. That was a big hit last year, said Hoffman.

“And it is a sanctioned event, so if they get first or second at the pedal tractor pull here, they’re eligible to go to state pedal tractor pull,” she said.

Other highlights from this year include performers Allen Johnson and Laura Ernst. Ernst was featured on “America’s Got Talent.”

“She has an aerial act,” Hoffman said. “She’ll use fabric and be swinging around in the air.”

She’ll also appear in the parade, rolling down the street in a giant hamster ball, Hoffman said.

Johnson is a comedy juggler, and has appeared on “ER” and “Night Court.”

“He’s doing a comedy juggling unicycle act,” she said.

Another new thing is the “Paint, Sip, Create” exhibition Friday evening. For a fee, participants will be provided with art supplies and canvas and taught to paint a Celtic cross and shamrock – no artistic experience necessary.

One of the guests of honor for the weekend will be Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy of the Irish parliament.

After visiting the State Capitol earlier in the week, Corcoran-Kennedy will attend the Irish coffee open house Thursday, the Miss Shamrock Pageant on Friday and the parade on Saturday.

Emmetsburg has been bringing dignitaries in from Ireland since 1967, said St. Pat’s Chairman Andy Joyce.

“From one year to the next we rely on those who were here previously to recommend and help us find a new dignitary to bring over,” he said. “The year prior we ask them to help go through the Irish Parliament and find a colleague that would have availability during that time frame.

“Fortunately they’ve continued to come, so we must host them well.”