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Retired postmaster Mike Rooney is one of the organizers of Benson's annual St. Patrick's Day parade. In this 2007 file photo, he is shown in front of Duffy's, the site of more Irish festivities after the parade, this year set for March 20. (Tribune file photo)

It's that time o' year ... Communities plan celebrations in honor of St. Patrick's Day

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Parts of west central Minnesota are looking a little greener this week.

It's that time o' year when the region's Irish-American population gathers to wear, drink and celebrate all things green in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

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Communities throughout the area are sponsoring a variety of events in honor of the holiday, from parades to dinners to shamrock hunts.

Irish clans from Benson to Montevideo to Padua will put their pride on parade this week as each community hosts its own St. Patrick's Day parade.

According to Patrick Duffy, owner of Duffy's Bar and Grill in Benson, nearly 45 floats will be entered in Benson's annual St. Patrick's Day parade, each float representing an Irish clan.

MaryAnn Doyle, of Willmar, participates in the parade as a member of the McGeary clan of the Danvers area. According to Doyle, many family members travel home for the event each year, with multiple generations onboard the family's festive float.

"It gets to be a homecoming weekend for people," Duffy said.

Not Irish and no float? No problem. An old green bus bearing "Duffy's or Bust" is designated for any person not of Irish descent who still wants to participate in the parade. The group has come to be referred to as the "McWannabes," according to Mike Rooney of Benson.

"Anybody that's not Irish and wants to participate in the parade is still entirely welcome," said Rooney.

The parade, now in its 16th year, will march down 13th Street where it concludes in front of Duffy's Bar and Grill.

More Irish festivities are planned at Duffy's following the parade, including a Lucky Charms eating contest for kids, a sing-a-long (led by Rooney) and an Irish stew eating contest. "Whiplash" will also perform from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m.

Interestingly enough, parties, parades and green beer are a far cry from the way Ireland originally observed St. Patrick's Day.

"St. Patrick's Day is a sacred holiday in Ireland," said Dr. Dawn Duncan, professor of English and global studies at Concordia College in Moorhead.

According to Duncan, the first St. Patrick's Day parade was actually conducted in the United States during the Revolutionary War.

Parades and green beer didn't appear in Ireland until as recently as several decades ago.

"They learned that from us," Duncan said.

Nonetheless, St. Patty's Day events are scheduled beginning Wednesday throughout the area. Dig out the green to ward off any potential pinches.

Benson

The St. Patrick's Day celebration will begin with a parade at 3 p.m. March 20. Approximately 45 units representing Benson and area towns including Clontarf and Danvers will participate.

Any business, organization, clan or family is invited to be in the parade. Call Duffy's at 320-843-2777 for details to enter a parade unit.

Following the parade, a program will be held at Duffy's Bar & Grill, including music, Irish jokes and a Lucky Charm eating contest. In the evening, the band Whiplash will play from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Duffy's is at 1301 Pacific Ave. in Benson.

Kandiyohi

The annual St. Patrick's Day ham dinner will be served from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Kandiyohi. Cost for adults is $7, for ages 6-10 is $3.50, ages 2 to 5 is $1.50 and children under 2 eat free. The Potluck Band will provide Irish music during dinner.

Montevideo

The St. Patrick's Day celebration will begin with a parade at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in downtown Montevideo. More than 20 units are expected, including bagpipers from South Dakota and a kazoo band.

After the parade, food, prizes and karaoke are on tap at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

And the Inn Like Flynn will serve Irish stew all day Wednesday and will have bagpipe performances.

Padua

St. Patrick's Day will be celebrated Wednesday in Padua beginning with a shamrock hunt at noon, followed by a parade at 1 p.m. and a sing-along at 3 p.m.

The Padua Pub will serve Irish stew and corned beef sandwiches all day and will have an Irish buffet from 4:30 to 9 p.m. and music by Heartland Entertainment from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.

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