St. Patrick’s Day Festivities - Still time to get involved in parade

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The late Pat Finley, far left, and Pat Keleher, far right, organized Elkader’s first St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Also pictured are Joan Wangen, Gerry Gundacker and Bob Mangen.

FreedomBank employees dressed as leprechauns for the 2015 parade.

Events for youngsters, including the coloring contest pictured above, were added by Jean Marie Hall when she took over as organizer of Elkader’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

There will be a hint of somberness to this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Elkader as the event moves forward without its remaining co-founder. Pat Keleher, who launched the parade in 1992 with his good friend, Pat Finley, died February 19 at the age of 77. 

Finley died in 2007. Keleher carried the torch for another five years, stepping aside in 2012 to give Jean Marie Hall a chance to spearhead the annual celebration.

“I’m from Emmetsburg where the St. Patrick’s Day celebration lasts all week so I was really happy when the Elkader parade was started,” Hall said. “When Pat Finley passed away, I thought Pat Keleher could probably need some help so I called him and he had me come to his house to talk it over. At that time, he was still able to get around so he continued to do a lot of the contacts and planning.  But he did give me a few simple assignments. Over the next couple of years, my duties increased and I think I’ve been in charge for a few years now. “

“I have added the kids’ activities at the library but the format of the parade has not been changed.”

Plans for this year’s event are nearly finalized though Hall said that parade entries would be accepted up until the day of the event.

The parade is Thursday, March 17, beginning at 5:15 p.m, and following the usual Main Street route from Peace Church to Wilke’s. The pre-parade fun begins at 4 p.m. with a full slate of activities for youngsters at the Elkader Public Library. The post-parade festivities, which will be held at Johnson’s Reception Hall, include music by Father Peters, a sing-along and dancing.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was a spur-of-the-moment event that grew from a conversation between the two Pats, and a practical joked played by one Pat on the other.

“I can’t remember what we were talking about but it wasn’t about having a parade,” Keleher said in a Register interview a few years ago. “As we were talking, Pat (Finley) mentioned that St. Patrick’s Day was coming and we should do something. I thought he meant something like going out for dinner with our wives. Then I sorta’ pulled a fast one on (Finley). I put his name and telephone number in the paper as the first-ever St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizer. It just took off from there.”

Keleher was also one of the original founders of Elkader’s summer festival, Sweet Corn Days.

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