SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The grand marshal for this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade in Sioux Falls is longtime businessman Dick Sweetman.
He happens to also carry both American and Irish citizenship.
This year’s St Patrick’s Day parade comes a day after the holiday, and one day before Sweetman’s 87th birthday.
The 2023 grand marshal grew up in the construction business, and turned Sweetman Construction into one of the powerhouse companies in the state.
His company built much of Interstate 90 and 29.
He is also part of the group that started the highly successful Ramkota Hotel Companies and served as chairman for a time.
He founded the Ellis and Eastern Railroad.
And until recently his family owned Concrete Materials, which provides aggregate, asphalt and concrete for much of the region.
He still owns an asphalt company in Mitchell and a quarry in Spencer, however, Sweetman considers himself semi-retired.
Last October Sweetman and his wife, Kathy, donated $2 million to South Dakota’s first planetarium at the Washington Pavilion.
An engineering graduate of Notre Dame, Sweetman is a huge supporter of the Fighting Irish.
Once you start talking to Sweetman you understand just how connected he and his family are to Ireland.
“We have kept really close contact with most of our relatives in Ireland so and they visit us here in Sioux Falls,” Sweetman said.
The Sweetmans were brewers for a century and a half in Dublin and one-time competitors of Guinness.
Another family member, Walter Sweetman was a well-known author and poet who lived in Clohamon House built around 1780.
There are dozens of quaint little stories about the house. For instance, stone walls affectionately called ‘hahas’ that you can’t see at certain angles.
“I guess you call it a haha because you say haha,” Sweetman said.
And then there is Sweetman’s very American experience of driving in Ireland.
“We rented a car, in fact, we rented five cars, the five of us kids and I talk to the gal at the car rental and she says, ‘Now you know we drive on the other side of the road,’ I know that for crying out loud you know I’m not stupid, ‘So ok I’ll walk you out to your car.’ So I go trudging on out there, we look over the car, I open the left-hand door I jump in and I thought there is no steering wheel. She laughed and said everybody does it: ‘I just wanted to be here and watch.'”
Sweetman and his family have been to many Saint Patrick’s Day Parades in downtown Sioux Falls.
This year he’s hoping for a big crowd. On Saturday, just about the entire Sweetman clan will gather for the parade, some coming from as far as California.
“I just hope everybody really gets a kick out of the parade. It’s just amazing, like you, everybody has a little Irish in them. It’s a chance to celebrate and it’s just a fun time, you are not trying to prove anything, it’s just a time to have fun and that’s what is so great about it,” Sweetman said.
The 43rd Saint Patrick’s Day Parade takes place Saturday at 2 p.m. The parade runs down Phillips Avenue downtown.
The event returned last year, after being canceled twice because of the pandemic.