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“Top of the morning, my lads and lassies. It is such a great day for the wearing of the green.”

That was the greeting in the town of Emmetsburg, Iowa on March 17th as another St. Patrick’s Day rolled around. It was a cold, wintry day, and there were threats of a blizzard headed our way. The snow came, but just enough to make a clean cover and brighten the atmosphere. It looked so refreshing after staring for a day at the ugly “snirt” — an ugly combination of snow and dirt. But with the clean snow and all the green attire of the local Irish, it was indeed a bright sight. 

We missed the grand parade and the special displays and the cocktail parties, but we did attend the dinner concert in the evening. The dinner was an ordinary American meal, but the entertainment came straight from the land of the leprechauns and gnomes — the land we know as Ireland. 

The 30-some entertainers surely were exhausted after a two and a half-hour performance following their brisk ride in the parade. But the show must go on, and it did. I expected a group of Irish tenors singing the familiar songs from Ireland. Instead I received exciting Irish folk dancing and folk songs. The troupe brought with them their wit, ballads, and folklore along with an enormous amount of versatile talent. To add color there was a continuous changing of costumes. The sparkle of diamonds in the eyes of the Irish folk added to the array of happy faces. Just being in their presence made me feel snuggly warm and happy. 

One middle-aged fellow gave two classical monologues on the Irish folklore, with such sincerity it made our hearts jump with jubilance and brought tears of sadness as he hit the hearts of his audience. One was a story of an Irish lad who left his home never to return as he was swept up in the worldly ways of America. After 20 years, he made a quick decision to surprise his dear old mother on Christmas day — only to return in time for her funeral. 

The other folk story was about a Protestant lad and a Catholic lass who fell in love and married without the blessings of their parents. The family-church feud deepened over the birth of their first child. The child and mother died only a few hours after the birth and now the father has been told he, too, would soon be joining his loved ones in the great glory land. At least the three of them would be with God who cared not if they were Catholic or Protestant. That surely touched the hearts of many in the audience that evening. 

Another fellow who was a bit on the older side played in most of the humorous skits and seemed to always have a lot of wit to share. He truly had an Irish leprechaun’s mischievous twinkle in his eye. He enjoyed letting his jokes suggest a more risqué direction which he deftly avoided not in words but by his expressions. 

The crowd joined in with hand clapping and foot tapping and no one grumbled at all about the long performance. And then at the finale my American friends did me proud when they all stood in respect as the Irish sang their national anthem. 

What a delightful evening bringing two countries together for fun and more fun. 

Patricia Jensvold

Born and educated in rural Iowa, Pat Jensvold attended Iowa State Teachers College and taught lower elementary grades.

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