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A brief history of St Patricks
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Sons and daughters of Ireland celebrate
St. Patrick's Day
By GAY GRIESBACH - Daily News Staff March 18, 2002


St. Patrick (a.k.a. Rich Gregg) plays "Scotland the Brave" at the St. Patrickís Day celebration at the Erin Town Hall Sunday.

TOWN OF ERIN - The usual boisterous crowds were modest this year as the sons and daughters of Ireland celebrated St. Patrickís Day Sunday.

"One out of 200 asked if we served beer," said Marge Van Beckum as she sold tickets for corned beef, hot dogs, chips and homemade desserts at the town hallís family friendly celebration.

"Most people are just happy to be here," said Van Beckum.

Across the road at the Tally Ho, beer was the beverage of choice and corned beef sandwiches tickled most culinary pallets.

"Sales are not like when we had the parade," said tavern owner Bill Vogl. "For the past three years, Iíve run out of food in the first two hours. This year I cut my order in half."

An institution for 22 years, the St. Patrickís Day Parade was cancelled due to a low number of volunteers and problems that occurred last year when people refused to dissipate after the parade.

Although Highway 83 was paved with Save St. Patís and campaign signs, there was no procession in sight. Vogl said he missed the pageantry and the visitors it brought to his pub.

"I had people here from Ireland last year. With that volume of people you are going to have problems, but it was no battle zone," said Vogl.


Corrine Christenson looks at a model of Thompson School at the St. Patrickís Day celebration at the Erin Town Hall Sunday. The family-friendly event included historical exhibits, corned beef and pipe music, but no parade this year. The family-friendly event was sponsored by the Save St. Patrick group and the St. Patrickís Ladies Altar Society.

"I donít blame them for not having the parade," said Nancy Henke, who brought her collected history of Erin to the town hall. "A number of rowdy people refused to listen to volunteers. I donít blame them one bit."

That failure to listen to volunteers and disburse contributed to tragedy last year when a 45-year-old Richfield man stumbled and fell onto Highway K where he was hit by a slow-moving vehicle. He died two days later.

"Itís not the same without the parade, but itís still good," said Jordan Coffey.

When contacted this morning, Washington County Sheriff Jack Theusch said there were two incidents - a rollover accident and theft - reported in the township from noon Sunday to 7 a.m. today.

"Neither incident was connected to the celebration," said Theusch.

Family and history took precedent at the town hall as the Save St. Patrick Preservation committee and St. Patrickís Ladies Altar Society raised money to help finance their case against the closing of the parish.

Maureen Fitzsimmons Vanden Heuvel, member of the committee and one of the organizers of the town party, said there had been a steady stream of visitors all day. For some, the wearing of the green was considered a neighborly courtesy.

Too early to celebrate Syttende Mai, Corrine and Charles Christenson traded lefse for corned beef sandwiches.

"Our grandparents were the only Norwegians in the town of Erin," said Corrine Christenson, who now lives just over the Dodge County line near St. Olaf Lutheran Church.

Henkeís formidable collection crowded tables with plat maps, newspaper clippings and articles saved for the St. Patrick Church history book.

The church will be 150 years old in 2005, and Henke said she and her husband Evarist may have to use their own money to have the book published.

Henke also contributed to the town of Erinís sesquicentennial book and the family has its own place in the townshipís history.

"My husbandís great grandfather was Roman Goetz," said Nancy Henke.

A 16-foot-tall cross fashioned by Goetz is displayed near the chapel.

Patricia Stapleton marveled at Evarist Henkeís hand-built models of local churches and schoolhouses.

A Shamrock School student in the 1950s, she was impressed by the detail of the miniature structure.

"It sure brought back memories," said Stapleton.

Dorothy Carl sat near an enormous photo of fellow Thompson School classmates, circa 1952.

"I was sitting in the corner - I got cut out of the photo," said Carl, who lives in Portage, but returns frequently to visit family.

Near a huge map of the township, Coffey, 16, was giving cousin Shawn Stapleton, 8, the nickel tour.

"Thereís Mrs. Clooneys, the McConvilles and the (Erin) school," said Coffey as Stapleton tried to follow the winding roads dotted with farms.

"Weíve always lived in Erin," Coffey said.