NEW ULM - The Irish in New Ulm have high hopes for another fine turnout for their 48th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, scheduled for 5 p.m. next Sunday, March 17.
The parade will form at 3rd South and Minnesota Street and proceed the wrong way up Minnesota Street to the Glockenspiel, or to Don's Pub, whichever comes first. (Kaiserhoff owner Don Veigel graciously changes the name of his establishment for St. Patrick's Day every year.)
(Editor's note: The facts above are accurate. Anything that follows should be taken with a grain of salt.)
Dr. Kellie Neuman from the New Ulm Medical Center is the Irish Queen.
Jeff Connell, owner of The Splendid Nest, will be the Grand Marshal for the parade. Connell earned the honor by being an Irish businessman in New Ulm, and also for giving Jim Jensen something to do. The Splendid Nest has allowed Jensen to add a line of men's clothing.
"We had to," said Connell. "Jim was sneaking into the building in the middle of the night and bringing in merchandise. We figured the least we could do was let him sell it."
If You Go:
What: St. Patrick's Day Parade
When: 5 p.m., Sunday, March 17
Where: Starting at 3rd South and marching the wrong way up Minnesota Street.
The Splendid Nest has a water fountain feature in its store. The source of the water is unknown, but speculation is that the Connells have tapped into the legendary Connla's Well, or Connell's Well, also known as the Well of Wisdom. Word is that Schell's Brewery president Ted Marti made a batch of beer with the water, and after tasting it had such an epiphany that he decided on the recently-announced expansion project. The expansion will allow him to make a new beer with the pure water from the Well of Wisdom.
The new beer, which will go into production next fall, will be somewhat similar to last year's Emerald Rye. It will be called Emerald Isle, and is reputed to stimulate the intellectual abilities of the consumer. B&L Bar owners Rick Kamm and Jeff Gulden are a bit concerned that the new beer will lead their customers to finally catch on to their "One Beer for the Price of Two" special.
The St. Patrick's Day Committee is confident that this year's event will pull off without a hitch, though there are some concerns that the federal sequestered cuts could impact security for the parade.
"Every year we bring in extra police from communities around New Ulm to help with crowd control," said Tom Donnelly, one of the organizers of the parade. "We are expecting between 10,000 and 15,000 people to come and see the parade. We're concerned that with the funding cutbacks there might not be enough extra police available to handle the crowd.
"We will have to rely on our well-behaved public - and they always are well behaved - to make sure there are no problems," said Donnelly.
The Irish are happy that the New Ulm Police Department is keeping its K-9 officer, Juneau, to help keep peace during the parade.
"We think the New Ulm Fire Department should have a dog, too, to help them find the hydrants," said Donnelly. "We are searching for a dog for them, but not just any dog. We are working with dog breeders and genetic scientists to come up with a Dalmatian that has green, shamrock-shaped spots."
Pat Kneefe had originally been put in charge of security this year. In fact, he had volunteered to give all the ladies his special "Pat Down." But that idea was scrapped after Pat's wife, Katie, said if Pat was going to pat down the women, she was going to pat down the men. For the sake of family harmony, they have decided to keep their hands to themselves.
Instead, the St. Patrick's Day committee is going to have self-service security lines, similar to self-service lines at a gas station.
"People will be asked to pat themselves down," said Donnelly. "We'll see how it goes."
The theme for this year's parade is "God Must Love the Irish - He Made So Many of the Them."
"The religious overtones of the theme are especially appropriate since St. Patrick's Day takes place on a Sunday this year," said Donnelly. He bristled at the suggestion from some that the celebration might be moved to another day.
"This is no government holiday that can be moved around to the nearest Monday," said Donnelly. "St. Patrick's Day is St. Patrick's Day - March 17. It is first and foremost a religious holiday. Why shouldn't it be held on a Sunday? Besides, the Lenten restrictions are lifted on Sundays during Lent, so people can drink as much as they want."
Speaking of drinking, Don Veigel told Donnelly recently he had a customer who complained about the poor quality of a glass of Schell's beer he had been served.
"What are you complaining about?" said Veigel. "You only have one little glass. I've got four barrels of the stuff!"
Veigel also related that he had two customers, an Irishman and an German, sitting at the bar one day. The Irishman was complaining about a fishing trip he had taken.
"At the end of the trip, all I had was one little fish," the Irishman said. "I tell you, that fish cost me $500."
"Ach," said the German. "It vas a gud ding you didn't catch two."
The St. Patrick's Day Committee usually presents several awards. This year, however, no one is receiving the Done Nothing Award, since all the usual recipients have been so busy. George Glotzbach has been busy having his picture taken in front of monuments, and Don Brand is ineligible after being a "three-peat" recipient. Denny Warta was going to receive the award, but then he was called to Rome to help advise the Conclave of Cardinals on the selection of a new pope. They wanted him to help develop a short list.
A variety of other events is scheduled for Sunday. The 5K Irish Jig will start at the foot of the Hermann Monument at 1 p.m., the Rope Pushing Contest will start in Irish Park (German Park has been renamed for the day) at 2, and the Sauerkraut Burying Contest will start at 3 in Irish Park. The annual Hurling Tournament will be held behind the B&L Bar throughout the day.
A special event will be held at Pat & Mike's Book Shop (Sven and Ole's is changing its name for the day). Irish romance noveliest Bridget O'Houlihan will be signing her racy bestseller, "50 Shades of Green."
As busy as the St. Patrick's Day committee has been with this year's parade, it is already making plans for the 50th annual parade two years from now. New Ulm has the longest continuous St. Patrick's Day Parade in the state.
Donnelly said a noted Irish artist, who wishes to remain anonymous so as to not draw attention away from the parade, has come up with a design for the head of the St. Patrick statue that will be replacing the one on the Hermann monument. The face of the statue will be based on rare drawings of the saint that were found in the late Bill O'Connor's files. O'Connor, one of the founders of the parade who for years served as New Ulm's Blarneymeister, has been in charge of the weather for the parade since his death in 2008, and has been doing a fine job in ordering up good weather.
The Irish are confident, too, that they will have the Highway 14 four-lane expansion project from Mankato to New Ulm completed in time for the 50th annual parade.
"We'll need it, if we're going to get all the people here who want to come," said Donnelly.
The Irish will be asking Terry Dempsey, former House Minority Leader in the Legislature, to use his knowledge of legislative dealings and his Irish charm to get the funding necessary for the project.