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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


How many leprechauns does it take to plan a St. Patrick’s Day celebration?

For Jean Marie Hall, who heads Elkader’s annual March 17th festivities, the answer is “as many as I can get!”

Hall has relied heavily on volunteers since taking on the celebration four years ago. One of several people pivotal to the effort is her dear friend Vanita Thomsen, who helps with several of the kids’ activities at the library. Last year when Vanita was in New Zealand, Jean Marie learned just how important her friend is to the effort.

“She wears a million hats,” said Hall. “Things got a bit chaotic without her around last year. Vanita had another chance to go on a big trip this year and I told her she absolutely, positively couldn’t go until after St. Patrick’s Day.”

Already a regular fixture at the Elkader Public Library where she volunteers several hours a week, Thomsen helps coordinate the St. Pat’s activities that are centered there. She’s in charge of the “most freckles” contest and takes her assignment so seriously that she’s made a template to help her more accurately count them. 

Thomsen’s involvement with Elkader’s annual celebration is somewhat ironic since there’s not a drop of Irish in her bloodline. She’s Swedish. So why volunteer?

“That’s what happens when you’re a friend of Jean Marie’s,” she explained, with a laugh. “Also, it’s interesting to see so many people who aren’t Irish learning about the culture and having fun while doing it.” 

Some of Hall’s other volunteers are Judy Moyna, who judges the student-written limerick contest; Dawn Medberry, who picks winners in the reddest hair category; Lori Keppler, who does face painting; and Lisa Pope, Elkader Library Director. New to the group this year is Jenna Jensen, who will give Irish dance lessons. Hall also relies heavily on advice from Pat Keleher, one of the founders of the St. Patrick’s festival, and Father Paul Peters, who provides music at the wrap-up event at Johnson’s. And then, there are all of the companies and citizens who support the parade.

Elkader’s 23rd annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration is Tuesday, March 17. Children’s activities begin at 4 p.m. at the library. The parade starts at 5:15. There will be music and fun at Johnson’s after the parade.

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