Big Plans in Store for St. Patrick’s Day Parade

March 11, 2012

By Kevin Sweeney – Journal Editor, © The Journal

NEW ULM – The Irish in New Ulm are not ones to hold a grudge. So forgiving are they that they have named Pat Kneefe as Grand Marshal of the 47th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New Ulm.

Kneefe’s wife, Katie, will be the Irish Festival Queen for the celebration, in part because of her grace and beauty, and in part so she can keep an eye on Pat, who tends to get into trouble when left alone.

The parade will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 17. The parade will begin at 3rd South and Minnesota Streets, and proceed the wrong way up Minnesota to the Glockenspiel. The parade will be followed by the Irish Clans Banquet at Don’s Pub (known the rest of the year as the Kaiserhoff Restaurant.)

(Editor’s note: The preceding paragraph contains the only factual information in this article. Anything else should be believed at your own risk.)

Kneefe is being honored despite his years of inadequate oversight of the St. Patrick’s Statue Fund. The Irish have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations over the years to erect a statue of St. Patrick in New Ulm that would be so large and grand that it would make Hermann the German look like a garden gnome. But somehow the fund balance at the end of each year has hovered between 57 cents and $1.82. Pat said he is still waiting for the investments he made with Bernie Madoff and Tom Petters to start paying off.

This past year, the Irish in New Ulm applied for and received a $100,000 grant from the Minnesota Legacy Fund for the statue. State officials, in fact, said they could not think of a more deserving project, one that would better promote the arts and Minnesota heritage, than this Celtic Colossus.

However, Pat once again has lost the money. He thought he would set up a Pyramid Scheme, and send out chain letters, but instead of asking people to send him money, he sent them money. The Legacy Fund was depleted before the St. Patrick’s Day Committee realized what he had done. “I guess this was more of an Inverted Pyramid Scheme,” said attorney Tom Donnelly, one of the committee members.

The theme of this year’s parade, back by popular demand, is “If Kraut Is A Vegetable, Then Guinness Is Medicine.” T-shirts bearing the slogan, made popular last year, will be sold at Mowan’s Bar and the B&L Bar.

There has been discussion over the past year that the parade has not been well organized. While it is no easy task organizing the thousands of people who want to march each year, the Parade Committee has taken special pains this year to organize the event. Judge Terry Dempsey has set the order of the march, Donnelly has drafted the plan, Dan O’Connor has filed the necessary Environmental Impact Statement, and Pat Kearney has made sure the plan meets all municipal, state and federal regulations.

The parade will be led by the Color Guard, followed by the Grand Marshal and Queen, Mayor Bob Beussman, the New Ulm Battery, and then ten thousand walkers, cars, tractors, the New Ulm Fire Department, and finally the last Little Irishman, Pat Kearney himself.

“Mayor Bob was going to be the grand marshal this year,” said Kearney, “but he has lost so much of his power he can no longer appoint himself.

“We really pushed hard to get Governor Mark O’Dayton down to be the grand marshal, but of course he vetoed it,” said Kearney. “We chose his look-alike, Pat Kneefe – they both have that look of confusion in their eyes.”

The Irish are hoping that Governor O’Dayton will appoint a good Irish judge to replace John Rodenberg, who was kicked upstairs to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

“A good Irish judge is the best way to keep those Germans in line,” said Donnelly, with Dempsey nodding in agreement.

Activities throughout the day include:

At noon, beverages be served and Irish music will be played at the Grand Kabaret. There had been hopes that the world-famous Irish comedian, Shecky O’Toole, would come to perform, but when he found out most of the audience would be German, O’Toole canceled.

“Sure, ’tis like baytin’ yer head aginst a rock thryin’ to make thim Germans laugh,” he said. “Thim that’s intilligent enough to get the jokes have no sinse o’ humor a’tall.”

At 2 p.m., Kneefe will host an Irish cooking class at his house. “We found out he doesn’t really know how to cook. Pat’s really hoping someone can teach HIM,” said Kearney. “However, Pat will demonstrate the art of boiling potatoes. Pat said he will provide the heat and water. Please bring your own potatoes.”

The annual Rope Pushing Contest will be held in Irish Park (aka German Park) at 3 p.m., followed by the Kraut Burying Contest at 3:15 p.m. It will continue until all the kraut is gone, so people are encouraged to bring as much as they can.

“The Norwegians wanted a German burying contest, but we didn’t want things to get out of hand, so we’ll stick to just kraut,” said Kearney.

At 3:30 p.m. the “Roll a German Down the Street” contest will be held on Irish Street (aka German Street).

At 4 p.m. the 5K Irish Jig event will start at the base of the Hermann Monument and jig all the way to the parade starting point. “Be aware that it takes longer to jig than to jog,” said Kearney

The first annual Pub Crawl will start at the Grand Kabaret, head south on Minnesota Street and finish up at Don’s Pub. The crawl starts at 4:30 p.m. and will finish up in time for the parade at 5 p.m. Mowan’s Bar will be demonstrating how to make poteen (Irish moonshine), and will be paying patrons a dollar to try it. The B&L Bar will be demonstrating how to make Irish Punch.

“It’s a strange drink,” said Kearney. “First you add the whiskey to make it strong, then you add hot water to make it weak. Then you add lemon juice to make it sour, and then you add sugar to make it sweet. Then you say ‘Here’s to You,’ and you drink it yourself.”

“We would like to instill some more Irish traditions this year,” said Donnelly. “We will have a Hurling competition (an ancient Irish sport still played in Ireland today). There is no need to bring the tools of the sport. I think the hurling will begin about 1 a.m. behind every bar in New Ulm.”

The official end of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration will be when Mary O’Connor dances the Irish Jig on the bar at Don’s Pub. Mary said that after 47 years, she is going to change the time to 11 p.m. instead of midnight, because she just can’t stay up that late anymore.

The St. Patrick’s Day Committee would like to thank Irish “wannabe” Terry O’Sveine, of the New Ulm Convention & Visitors Bureau, for finally including the parade, New Ulm’s most popular event of the year, in the New Ulm Visitors Guide.

“This should easily bring in another 10,000 Irishmen for the day,” said Kearney. “Now, if we could only teach Terry to jig.”

Once again, excellent weather is expected for the parade. The late Bill O’Connor, New Ulm’s Blarneymeister until his death in 2008, remains in charge of ordering the weather, said Kearney.

“So far Bill’s been doing an excellent job,” Kearney said.

The St. Patrick’s Day Committee would like to thank Irish “wannabe” Terry O’Sveine, of the New Ulm Convention & Visitors Bureau, for finally including the parade, New Ulm’s most popular event of the year, in the New Ulm Visitors Guide.

The event brings several thousand Irishmen for the day and even though Terry can’t jig he is reputed to be a rock star on the drums. Shown here with his band, the Honey Buzzard circa 1972. From left to right: Jim Christiansen, Terry “T” Sveine, Rick Christiansen and Duane Suess.

Photo courtesy