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The St. Patrick’s Day People Parade

March 14, 2014, 10:06 PM by Stephanie Gregory

The St. Patrick’s Day People Parade

Grab your green and your Irish spirit because St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and Sioux Falls does it big.  All thanks to one woman, Sylvia Henkin.

"It just seemed to me that the Irish people did not understand the joy and fun that they could have. All of a sudden I created a parade," Henkin said.

You may be surprised to learn Henkin doesn't have a bit of Irish blood.

"Not one bit, I'm 100 percent Jewish," Henkin said.

But she knew just how much fun could be had on St. Patrick's Day. That's why she brought the spirit to KELOLAND in 1980.

"Frankly, it has become one of the longest parades in the state of South Dakota," Henkin said.

And it was a simple button that started it all.

"We have a people’s parade and the only admission to be a part of the parade - you have to be wearing a button," Henkin said.

St. Patrick's Day parade buttons have been sold all across Sioux Falls. Proceeds have gone to local charities throughout the years and with the simple button, Henkin says, it can change your nationality, just for a day.

“That entitles you to be completely Irish all day long and all evening long," Henkin said.

Henkin has been named  the Grand Marshall in years past, but this year the honor is going to Pat Gustaf.

"It's just so exciting. I can't believe I'm the Grand Marshall," Gustaf said.

Gustaf is a member of the Sioux Falls Irish Club and has been a part of the parade for years.

"Today we garner 30,000 to 40,000 people coming to downtown Sioux Falls to watch this Irish parade," Gustaf said.

Gustaf says people attend for a number of reasons, like bagpipers and the Celtic dancers, but what it's really all about is the three Fs.

"That's the fun about the parade. You get to see all this fun, family and festiveness," Gustaf said.

With nearly 35 years under its belt, Gustaf says this year's parade is going to be nothing like anyone has ever seen before.

"It's going to be fun. This year, I think it's going to be the biggest and best parade that we've ever had," Gustaf said.

As for being Grand Marshall, it almost has him speechless.

"It's one of those things that you think of for years and years and years and you never - I just can't believe it. It's just so - I'm so honored, humbled and I think it's so cool," Gustaf said.

“Pat couldn't become more Irish than anyone else. He was probably one of the truest of them all. It doesn't make any difference, what domination you are. If you just join in the spirit, you're Irish,” Henkin said.

The parade is Saturday at 2:00 p.m. If you want to join the parade or just be Irish for a day, you need to get a button.

The buttons are $3 each and proceeds are donated to the Special Olympics and other charities in the Sioux Falls area. The buttons are available at the Chamber of Commerce office and Gustaf’s Greenery.

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