The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 4, 2008

Time to wear green again

St. Patrick's Day celebrations set

Before Irishman-about-town Greg O’Connell died of cancer about a decade ago, he wrote down a bunch of names and sealed them in separate envelopes.

Those envelopes, containing the names of his choices for grand marshals of Le Center’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, were to be opened each year around Christmastime.

He produced enough names to carry the celebration through its 25th anniversary, which happens to be this year.

Pat and Jeanne O’Meara, who will be this year’s grand marshals, represent the final envelope-sealed names in O’Connell’s grand plan.

“When Greg had an idea, he carried through with it,” said Pat O’Meara of the robust O’Connell, who spearheaded Le Center’s homage to St. Patrick and served as a touchstone for the community’s Irish enclave.

“His things in life were country, family and being Irish,” said Dee Wolf, one of six Le Center St. Patrick’s Day committee members who will observe the town’s 25th celebration with their own punctuation mark.

Which is to say, they’re quitting. A quarter-century is enough. Time to let others pick up the ball.

“We all said we’d take it to the 25th, then we would quit and sit back and enjoy it,” said Wolf, who stresses that committee members will be available to aid able successor Margaret Smith in keeping the event going.

Le Center is among several area communities that will observe St. Patrick’s Day with the likes of Irish suppers and queen contests.

This is also a year in which the holiday atypically conflicts with the Holy Week runup to Easter.

Some U.S. Catholic church leaders have asked that parades and other festivities be kept out of Holy Week, but no such request has been made by church officials in the Mankato area.

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