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
"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
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
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
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.