The Luck of the Irish
It’s not without any surprise that the age of tradition of “the luck of the Irish” plays a part in the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Emmetsburg, IA. In fact, locals call upon a little luck now and than for the weather to cooperate for the celebration (which is held every weekend surrounding St. Patrick’s day) and with early March in Iowa, one never knows what the weather will have in store! One year freezing temperatures, and the next warmth and sunshine. One thing is for sure, no matter what the weather is – visitors are in store for a full out Irish celebration – and why not? Discover Ireland in Iowa as Emmetsburg is known as the Irish Capital of Iowa – and the town lets that be known from every corner of downtown – to the very name of “Emmetsburg” which is named after the Irish patriot – Robert Emmet (pictured below).
An Irish Patriot
History shows Robert (being raised Protestant) wouldn’t stand by and watch his Irish kin be openly persecuted by the British and joined the fight along side his catholic brothers and sisters and lost his life after a failed attempt to overtake blank castle – once captured, Emmet was held on trial for high treason against the king where he was found guilty, hung, and draw and quartered. – But his fate wasn’t met without his speech to his native Irishmen.
“Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance, asperse them.
“Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my tomb remains uninscribed, and my memory in oblivion, until other times and other men can do justice to my character.
“When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.”
An Irish Celebration is born
The history shows on the Irish Gift Shop Webpage that in 1961 the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Emmetsburg, Iowa was born. A group of young people came together and loosely organized a parade through town that grew to the thousands of visitors who come to celebrate around the March 17th holiday each year, making it another way to discover Ireland in Iowa. Celebrating is just half the story with a famous rural parade – full of bagpipes, a display of the Irish county flags, and a full array of Irish heritage from folk dancing, march and gathering of the clans, and a few giant leprechauns for a great photo opportunity.
Wear Your Green
Insider Tip: Make sure to wear your green! It’s a shameful admission, but I showed up to the festival without an inch of green covering my body. The good news in all of it – you are in Emmetsburg, Iowa – the Irish Capital of Iowa and there is plenty of green to be purchased at the local gift shops! Check out the Irish Gift Shop of Emmetsburg and check out the fun shirts, hats, and other Irish memorabilia. Take a stroll down the main street and check out several other stores as well! Grab a shamrock mocha at the local coffee house, and don’t miss out on your chance to kiss the blarney stone – as Emmetsburg has their very own version within a memorial sitting next to the Robert Emmet statue on the courthouse lawn. It isn’t a surprise that Country Pilgrim ranked The St. Patrick’s Day Celebration one of its best festivals in N.W. Iowa. Another great way to discover Ireland in Iowa. You can get a better idea of the festival with the video below.
Five Island Lake
Beyond the celebration itself – you can gain an understanding of what attracted the first Irish settlers to the region in the 1800s. Hidden off the main route of Highway 18, sits Five Island Lake. It’s a nice quiet addition to the Emmetsburg community and offers a nice escape – it might be too cold in March to go boating on the lake, but if the lake lost its ice, there is plenty of great opportunity to cast a few lines and fish.
Insider Tip: Along the southeast shore of Five Island Lake sits a beautiful campground with hookups. In addition, they have two cabins that were built by Iowa Lakes Community College construction department and are offered for rent. I had the opportunity to stay in one of the cabins, and they are very clean and nice. They offer a great affordable escape which you can rent directly from the city.
One last activity that I will include in this post – after the festivities downtown is over – go check out the F.I.T. Trail in Emmetsburg. The trail has approximately 3 miles of paved trail and working towards adding additional miles to have about 7 miles of paved round trip trails to walk or bike in Emmetsburg. The feature that really got my attention to the F.I.T. trail was the addition to a covered bridge in the area – that claims to be the only covered bridge in N.W. Iowa.
Insider Tip: Because they are working to add and connect paved trails with existing parts – it can be confusing to find the bridge. You can start at the golf course on the west side of Five Island Lake. From here – CROSS OVER the road to the west and the path runs along the south side of the nursing home. If you were to walk the trail it would wind you around different parts and additions and would be a LONG walk to find the bridge. However, if you were to keep driving north out of Emmetsburg and past the golf course – you will come to a T-intersection. Take a right and the road will wind you back to a housing development called “Rockport” – keep heading past the sign for Rockport and in the distance along this route on the right-hand side you will see a red covered-bridge in the distance. The bridge is further north of Emmetsburg than you realize until you get out on the trails.
Honestly, it was a fun time trying to find the bridge – and getting out on the trails and exploring Five Island Lake and the rest of Emmetsburg was well worth the time – if you haven’t already – put the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Emmetsburg, Iowa on your bucket list and discover Ireland in Iowa!