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Patrick Gustaf, Grand Marshal, Saint Patrick's Day Parade


Sioux Falls S.D. (KELO AM) - Patrick Gustaf, the Grand Marshal of the 35 annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 15, in Sioux Falls has deep Irish roots in South Dakota that stretch back to his grandmother’s family in Montrose. 

Gustaf grew up in the North End of Sioux Falls in a family that celebrated being Irish. St. Patrick's Day was as big a holiday as Christmas with his family, right down to the green mashed potatoes. 

“I truly love the Irish part of me,” said Gustaf. “I think that’s my best feature!”

Events for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Sioux Falls are officially kicked off at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 15, with the traditional Painting of the Shamrock at 9th Street and Phillips Avenue. The parade forms at 5th Street and Main Avenue at 12:30 p.m. and the parade begins at 2 p.m. It moves south on Main Avenue, east on 13 Street and then north on Phillips Avenue.

Also featured in the parade will be Miss Shamrock, Jantina Donaldson, who will be part of the Sioux Falls Irish Club float.

The parade provides an excellent opportunity for people throughout the Sioux Falls region to visit the city for a day of family activities.  In 2009, the St. Patrick’s Day Extravaganza Committee, which plans the parade with support from the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce staff, decided to move the parade permanently to the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day.

Gustaf (61) says he actually is three-fourths Irish. His great-grandfather was Swedish and moved to Cork, Ireland, in the mid-1800s. His mother, who was 100% Irish was born in Montrose.  Her mother came to Montrose when her sister married a Montrose farmer.

As co-owner of Gustaf’s Greenery (with sister, Jean) on S. Minnesota Avenue in Sioux Falls, he’s long been an enthusiastic supporter of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, selling upwards of 100 parade buttons each year and collecting all 35 of them so far.

This years' button has a green carnation; a nod to Gustaf’s love of flowers. “It’s the coolest button of them all,” said Gustaf.

To say that Gustaf is excited about being Grand Marshal would be an understatement:  “I feel very honored and I just can’t believe it.  I just pinch myself once in a while, when I think about it,”  said Gustaf.

Being Irish is part of Gustaf’s life and he tries to incorporate it into most things he does.  Gifts typically include an Irish blessing. “If you give a shamrock, you are blessing the person. The leaf with three parts represents one God with three parts,”  said Gustaf.

Sponsorships from Sanford Health, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center, Holiday Inn City Centre and Xcel Energy help underwrite the costs of bringing the Khartum Temple Pipes and Drums, a Shrine unit from Winnipeg, Manitoba. They have performed in the parade almost since the start and make guest appearances in local schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

The 'Vanguard Squadron,' an ethanol-powered stunt team performing in-formation aerobatics, again will perform during the parade, weather permitting.  POET, a South Dakota ethanol producer is the sponsor.

There is no entry fee to participate in the parade but each entry must have some kind of Irish theme.  Each participant 16 and older must purchase and wear an official St. Patrick’s Day Parade button costing $3.  The proceeds help cover parade costs and a portion is donated to Special Olympics and to youth programs run by El Riad Shrine Temple.  Buttons are available at the Chamber of Commerce office at 200 N. Phillips Ave., at various businesses and at the start of the parade.

No candy can be distributed. Sioux Falls City Council Ordinance (Section 38-143) states: “It is unlawful for any person conducting, managing or participating in any parade to distribute or permit the distribution of any candy or balloons to persons in attendance during the parade.”

For more information, go to www.siouxfallschamber.com and click on the Events & Programs/Annual Events link to find more information about St. Patrick’s Day, including the parade information packet, or call Wendy Neuharth at the Chamber, (605) 336-1620.