Miss Shamrock named in prelude to Charles City St. Patrick’s Day Parade

By Kelly Terpstra, kterpstra@charlescitypress.com

The secret council of the leprechauns has spoken.

That means Saint Patrick’s Day is fast approaching.

An Irish parade, complete with an “Irish Air Force” flyover, will march to the Cedar River down Main Street in Charles City on Saturday.

The 26th First Ever St. Patrick’s Day Parade, first organized by John Morris in the early 1990s, will get underway at 5:30 p.m. on the north side of Charles City near the City Tap.

The march down Main will stop at the riverfront, where the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl will commence at the Pub on the Cedar.

The Drouthy Duck will provide the parade’s music accompaniment with traditional Irish songs like the “Blue Bells of Scotland” and “Auld Lang Syne” performed by the bagpipe band.

Mayor Dean Andrews will lead the parade and cruising right behind him will be a red convertible with Miss Shamrock in the back, waving to the crowd.

Morris has made it a tradition every year to bestow on one lucky woman the cherished distinction of being named Miss Shamrock. Morris determines the recipient of Miss Shamrock every year in a “secret meeting of leprechauns.”

The honor this year goes to Stacey Finnegan. Finnegan, who works at Cambrex, was raised in Ionia and has lived in Charles City for more than 30 years.

“I do have my Miss America wave ready to go,” said Finnegan. “I’ve been practicing.”

There’s no prerequisite to be able to march in the parade, other than wanting to join in the fun of celebrating the holiday.

“Everybody’s Irish on that day,” said Morris. “We encourage people to get in it.”

Morris is a 1958 graduate of Emmetsburg High School. The northwest Iowa town is a sister city to Dublin, Ireland, and Emmetsburg celebrates its Irish and Catholic heritage with a week-long festival highlighted by a parade, pancake festival and various other Gaelic traditions.

So one day, thinking Charles City needed a little more green in its wardrobe, Morris and a friend came up with the idea for the First Ever St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“The next year we called it the second ever first ever. That’s why we’re up to 26 first ever,” said Morris.

Green beer will be flowing and corned beef sandwiches will be served. The parade flyover, which will be conducted by pilots from Mason City, will feature twin-engined light aircraft barreling through the sky overhead, according to Morris.

“That is amazing,” Finnegan said about the flyover. “People just love that. It just sends chills up my spine. It’s so exciting.”

Finnegan said her great grandparents were from Ireland and her father, Joseph “Patrick” Finnegan, was born on St. Patrick’s Day. She’s happy that Morris helped re-energize Charles City with the parade and celebration afterward.

“We celebrate this every year, my friends and I,” Finnegan said.

The weather forecast calls for partly sunny skies and cool temperatures Saturday.