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Feb. 11, 2019
Hugh Grogan, director of the Minnehaha County Department of Human Service for almost 30 years and part of an Irish Catholic family in Sioux Falls, will be grand marshal for the 40th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 16.
Grogan and his family have been a visible part of every St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In 1983, Grogan and his wife, Jan, were joined in the parade by their 6-week-old daughter, Maureen. Now, brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren, perhaps even one to arrive in February, are regular parts of the Grogan family float.
Known as the “people’s parade” since it was started by the late Sylvia Henkin, it typically draws thousands of people from throughout the Sioux Falls region to watch 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 to the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day.
Grogan, 72, has been a tireless advocate for the homeless. Reflecting on his childhood in the North End, he said: “I guess I thought that everybody was Irish. Every block had at least one family with seven to 12 kids.
“Being Irish has influenced who we are and our outlook on life.”
Grogan is the oldest of 11 children in a family that is 100 percent Irish – “or at least as much as you can be.” He’s descended from Grogans, Malloys, Kelleys and McEnaneys, Irish families who immigrated to the United States in the mid-1800s from Ireland during the Great Famine.
The tight-knit Grogan family suffered a tragic loss in 1966 when Wally, the patriarch, died at 48.
“Our dad’s death drew us closer together, and we all grew up watching out for and being a part of each other’s lives.” Their mother, Cleo, raised the family and “despite the challenges she faced, provided an example of a life filled with love, faith and joy.”
Over the years, the Grogan family float has been a highlight of the parade, including in 2001, when Cleo was the grand marshal, and the float was a replica of her home. Other themes have included the Blarney Castle, Grogan’s “Pub” and even a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine.
“We are a clan proud of our Irish heritage and grateful for the opportunities that America has offered to us and our ancestors who came as immigrants to this great country,” Grogan said.
Grogan doesn’t consider a friends-and-family gathering on St. Patrick’s Day much of a success unless there are more than 70 folks stretching the limits of his home. He credits Jan’s role as critical in the celebration.
“Without the work and support of my wife, we would probably be eating hot dogs instead of Irish stew on St. Pat’s,” he said.
Advance registration will be required in order to participate in the parade, and there continues to be no entry fee. Shawn Cleary, chair of the parade committee, said participation has grown to the point where mandatory registration is needed to ensure coordination and safety.
Online registration will be available here until March 9. The link also includes detailed information on the parade, including rules for participation. The parade usually has about 100 entries and again this year will be led by the Khartum Temple Pipes and Drums, a Shrine unit from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Events on March 16 kick off at 11 a.m. with the traditional painting of the shamrock at Ninth Street and Phillips Avenue. The parade takes off from Phillips and 13th Street at 2 p.m. and ends near Fifth Street.
Placement in the parade is on a first-come, first-served basis and is at the discretion of parade officials. 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 supports Special Olympics South Dakota.
Buttons are available in advance at the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce office, 200 N. Phillips Ave., numerous businesses throughout the community and from Special Olympics volunteers. They also can be purchased the day of the parade at the start of the parade. Since 1982, almost $141,000 has been raised for Special Olympics of South Dakota, the primary benefactor of the button sales.
Hugh Grogan, director of the Minnehaha County Department of Human Service for nearly 30 years and part of an Irish Catholic family in Sioux Falls, will be grand marshal for the 40th annual Sioux Falls St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 16.