Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce - MEDIA RELEASE

For Immediate Release:
Feb. 23, 2016

Contact Person:
Amy Smolik

Dr. Pat O'Brien named Grand Marshal
of 37th Annual Sioux Falls St. Patrick's Day Parade

Dr. Pat O’Brien, retired Sioux Falls cardiologist and healthcare administrator, will be the Grand Marshal for the 37th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Sioux Falls on Saturday, March 12.

The parade typically draws thousands of people from throughout the Sioux Falls region watching an eclectic ensemble that includes individuals, groups, business and – especially – Irish families. In 2009, the St. Patrick’s Day Extravaganza Committee, which plans the parade with support from the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, moved the parade permanently to the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day.

And this year the parade has a new route: it officially takes off at 2 p.m. from Phillips Avenue and 13th Street and heads north to approximately 5th Street. Streets adjacent to the route will be closed at 1:30 p.m. and parking is not allowed on Phillips Avenue starting late Saturday morning. This year, the parade will begin staging at 12:30 p.m. on Main and Dakota avenues between 11th and 13th streets.

O’Brien, who says he is 75 percent Irish, grew up in a home on the south side of Chicago where seven people representing four generations of Irish lived. His mother, Rita Mae Cognac, was half Irish and half French and his father, Charles Francis O’Brien, was pure Irish.

He has fond memories as a child of the Irish food – “weekends included eight more grandchildren, so there were great feasts,” he said – and the Irish celebrations, especially the wakes commemorating the lives of those who recently died.

”When someone passed, there were big celebrations of their life,” O’Brien remembers. “They really liked to celebrate.”

His Irish ancestors are from Tulla, Ireland, in County Clare, and O’Brien has visited the country 10 times.

O’Brien attended two military schools and then Creighton University in Omaha, where he eventually specialized in cardiology at its medical school. After residencies, he joined the staff of the Mayo Clinic and then came to Sioux Falls in 1978, one of the city’s first cardiologists. He retired in 2013 as president of Sanford/USD Medical Center and recently moved to Okoboji, Iowa.

Events on March 12 kick off at 11:30 a.m. with the traditional painting of the shamrock at 9th Street and Phillips Avenue. The 2016 Miss Shamrock Meghan Kelly, selected by the Sioux Falls Irish Club, also will be introduced.

The chair of the parade committee, Shawn Cleary, said that while registering for the parade is not mandatory, it is requested. He said knowing the number of people in the parade will help make sure there are enough volunteers at the start of the parade and during the route. More details about parade requirements and registration forms can be found on the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce website:

There is no entry fee to participate in the parade but each entry must have some kind of Irish theme. The only requirement is that each participant older than 16 must purchase and wear an official St. Patrick’s Day Parade button. The $3 button helps cover the costs of the parade and support Special Olympics South Dakota and other organizations. Buttons are available in advance at the Chamber of Commerce office (200 N. Phillips Ave., Suite 200) as well as numerous businesses throughout the community and from Special Olympics volunteers. They can also be purchased the day of the parade at the start of the parade. Since 1982, more than $125,000 has been raised for Special Olympics of South Dakota. Placement in the parade is on a first come, first served basis and is at the discretion of parade officials.

Sponsorships from Sanford Health, Avera Health, 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 its inception and make guest appearances in local schools, senior living communities and hospitals in the days leading up to the parade.

For more information, contact Valerie Willson at the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce: or (605) 373-2010.


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