Yesterday we had our annual St Patrick's Day celebration. Two years ago, at my first St Patrick's Day here in town, I was excited to go downtown to see the St Patrick's Day parade. All sorts of people talked about it and were planning on being there. As the weekend approached, I was thinking of all the parades that I had seen or participated in. I thought of floats and marching bands and horses and maybe even Shriners.
So I made my way down the street a couple of blocks toward the parade route. I ended up seeing a family from church, so I stopped and chit-chatted with them for a bit and then the parade started. It was led by a fire engine, then there was a horse drawn carriage bringing the grand marshalls (that year I think it was three women from the community), then there was the car carrying the mayor of the town.
What happened next was unlike any parade I've ever seen. Family after family bearing Irish last names paraded down the street, led by banners or signs carrying their names and sometimes their family coat of arms. Some were on wagons or trucks. Most of them just walked. People were dressed in green clothes and kilts and funny hats. They were waving and throwing candy. Then came the bag pipers, a troupe brought in from the Twin Cities, and then it was over and people dispersed to the restaurants and the bars for food and green beer.
Like I mentioned, it wasn't like any parade I had been to. I stood there for a minute, not sure what I had just seen and wondering if it was really over. No floats? No marching band? What kind of parade was that?!? I wasn't upset very long, however, because not ten feet away from where I stood was a booth selling cheese curds and corn dogs, and I was able to drown my sorrows in delicious greasy foods.
Since then, I have come to enjoy the parade. Sure it's nothing fancy, but we save our big parade for later in the summer, and then we go all out. The Saint Patrick's Day parade is just a day set aside to celebrate family and community and they do that pretty well here.
A couple months later, that first year, I went to my first German Day parade which is basically the same thing, except it's for the Germans and we wear red. Although on that day I was an honorary Schmidt and got to ride on their family's wagon. It was a lot of fun.
Oh, and on German Day they have professional wrestling set up in the street.