Eustice Family Marches in Irish American Club of Southern Minnesota’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Waseca, Minnesota; March 13, 2004

Each year the Irish American Club of Southern Minnesota celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. The event which has been held for 36 years alternates between the southern Minnesota towns of Janesville and Waseca.

During the late 1860’s, Irish immigrants settled in these communities. Their arrival coincided with the completion of the railroad which came to Waseca in 1867 and was extended to Janesville in 1869. Irish families had settled in the area as early as 1855, but it took the Homestead Act of 1862, the quelling of the Sioux Uprising and the end of the War Between the States to open the frontier.

The families that settled the area were survivors of the Great Famine of 1845 to 1848, which claimed the lives of more than one million Irish. Another million or so emigrated mostly to the US and Canada, but others to Australia, New Zealand and even Argentina. Among the emigrants was John Eustice, a native of Ballymahon, County Longford who arrived in Janesville during 1869 together with his wife Ann Jewison and their three infant children. Today there are many Eustice family descendents in the area and they were instrumental in forming the Irish American Club and play a significant role in continuing the tradition.

The day begins with a Catholic Mass at either St. Ann’s Church in Janesville or Sacred Heart Church in Waseca. Irish music and songs precede the service. A packed church singing Danny Boy, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and other traditional songs brings tears to the eyes and helps to make all in attendance feel even a wee bit more Irish. This year the singing of Our Lady of Knock during Mass was especially inspirational.
Following the Mass, Mr. & Mrs. Emerald Isle are crowned by the Grand Marshall. Two years ago, Herbert and the late Eileen Eustice of Janesville were awarded this honor.

A noon lunch features the serving of “Mulligan Stew” at a bargain price of $2.00 a bowl. At 1:30, the various families gather in front of the church, banners in hand, to begin the Parade of Clans. Besides the Eustices, we see Burkes, Ryans, Glynns, Byrons, Conways, Cahills, Lynches, Kellys and others. Everyone who is Irish or even “Irish at Heart” is encouraged to walk in the parade which ends with a rally at the local VFW in Waseca or the American Legion in Janesville, depending on the year.

During the rally, which is attended by perhaps 300 people or more, there is dance competition featuring Little Miss Shamrock and Little Leprechaun contestants. This year, Anam Mor, an Irish dance company performed for the audience. The event concludes with the Irish Queen Talent Competition, dance and the crowning of Miss St. Patrick and Miss Irish Rose. Over the years, many Eustice girls and Eustice descendents have competed in the competition and this year was no exception. (See next page).