EMMETSBURG, Iowa (KCAU) – Many Siouxland communities are partaking in St. Patrick’s Day festivities. That includes the small town of Emmetsburg whose history of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations stretch back to the 1960’s.
“I was a professor at Iowa State University because my father had been before me. I heard of Emmitsburg and the Irish background, so I decided to visit it,” Dr. Michael Grimes said.
Dr. Grimes lived in Iowa for a decade. During his time in the Midwest, he has helped establish the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Emmetsburg.
“I had started this in 1966. I wandered into town, sat down at the cafe and met John McCain and Gary Girard. And we decided why not have a St. Patrick’s day celebration,” Dr. Grimes said.
“I was fortunate enough to address the Iowa Senate. They gave me that privilege and I brought shamrock to them. And of course, the governor, he became Irish for the day,” he said.
57 years ago, Emmetsburg’s inaugural St. Patrick’s Day parade kicked off.
“We had a small parade and at that stage, there was nobody really organizing us. There was a group and I think the people came out just to see all these lunatics headed by an Irish man whom nobody ever heard about,” Dr. Grimes said.
Dr. Grimes recalled how he was able to bring the Blarney Stone to Emmetsburg.
“I went to Blarney to get a Blarney Stone. The Blarney keepers didn’t really care for the idea, but I took it anyhow. But it was very funny. Those days, Ozark was the airline, and they used to fly DC3’s. And we carried this stone in the back of the three and it nearly went out the door and we nearly lost it somewhere in Illinois coming out, but we got it safely out. I don’t think today they would allow you to do that sort of thing,” said Dr. Grimes.
Years removed from his previous visit to Iowa, Dr. Grimes is happy to see the Emmetsburg community continue Irish tradition.
“A piece of Ireland in the middle of a desert for Irish people. I think there were three Irish people in Iowa when I went there born in Ireland, but we revived it. And everybody in Iowa now knows about Emmetsburg,” Dr. Grimes said.
“I came back one year, I’m not sure what year, and it was a wonderful experience, seeing everybody. Iowa people are wonderful and friendly,” Dr. Grimes said.
Dr. Michael Grimes hopes that one day, Ireland’s Prime Minister can make it to one of Emmetsburg’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.