St. Pat events focus on family



Entertainment planned for the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Emmetsburg initially seems eclectic for a weekend meant to laud Irish heritage, but officials with the community’s St. Patrick’s Association said all of the pieces come together perfectly to celebrate a central tenet of the Irish way of life.

“A big part of the Irish culture is being with family,” said Billie Jo Hoffman, office manager for the association. “We’ve tried to create a fun way for grandparents to bring their grandkids out, relax and have a fun time together.”

Families are often so busy anymore that it’s a challenge to get everyone together, she said. And if families can get their schedules synchronized, the next challenge is to find an appropriate activity that can hold the attention of differing generations.

“We try to have something here for everybody so they can sit down together and laugh,” Hoffman said. “We really consider if the act can keep the children engaged without forsaking the adults.”

When such a balance is achieved, ticket prices and admission fees can then be prohibitive, however, most of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration activities are free or a minimal cost.

“We don’t want this to be a financial strain for families,” Hoffman said, “and we are really lucky that the community supports us as much as they do so we can offer events at little to no charge.”

For instance, Steve Russell, a comedic juggler, fits the bill in all respects, she said. He will be performing a family-friendly show at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Corrigan Hall for a freewill donation. His act is promoted as a slightly off-kilter variety show that includes disappearing bananas, impaled potatoes and flying luncheon meat.

“He was a fun one to book,” Hoffman said. “He’s been all over the world performing. He has a lot of audience participation and really gets them up on stage.”

Also taking place in Corrigan Hall will be the structured kids’ zone where children can make crafts, get their faces painted and watch as balloons are twisted and tweaked into animal shapes. A photo booth will also be established, providing props for funny, St. Patrick Day-themed photos that parents can take of their children with their own cameras.

Another way people can express their creativity is to participate in the “Sip, Paint and Create” event led by Creative Spirits. Artists from the Okoboji-based studio will guide people through painting individual expressions of their interpretation of an “Irish Soul” from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday at the Wild Rose Casino and Resort.

“It’s an event for all ages and an artistic outlet for people to explore together,” Hoffman said. “Everyone joined in last year and had a great time so we asked them to come back.”

A new feature of the celebration will be the performance of an Irish-punk band called The Langers Ball. They will be playing at the VFW Hall beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and admission will be free.

“These guys really seem neat,” Hoffman said. “They are fun and upbeat. They play all the Irish festivals in the Midwest and we were just lucky to be able to book them this year.”

The Langers Ball is a St. Paul-based group that features Michael Sturm on guitar, mandolin and vocals with Hannah Rediske on piano accordion and penny whistle. They are joined by Drew Miller on bass, Danny McDermott lead guitar, and Derek Jaimes on drums.

The band is known for playing fast, aggressive Irish Punk Rock music stylings with an edge of humor to them. Their most recent album is entitled “The Devil & the Barrel” and has been described as containing “perfectly crafted” songs.

A tradition that will continue this year is a visit to the community by a member of the Irish Parliament. This year the dignitary will be Michelle Mulherin, a member of the Fine Gael political party and a solicitor in the city of Ballina, Ireland. She represents Ireland as a member of the EU Committee of the Regions and she is a member of the County Development Board, as well as serving as chairperson of Ballina Arts Events.

“What we want to do with the dignitaries is educate people on the Irish culture and daily life,” 8Hoffman said. “Lately, we’ve been on a stretch of women which is nice. Usually we get men and it’s nice to get that other perspective. Women tend to talk about home life, children and schools.”

Mulherin and her sister Grace Mulherin, also an attorney, will arrive Wednesday to visit schools and area organizations before taking part in the weekend festivities.