The weather could not have been better for the 2012 St. Patrick's Day Parade. After years of cold, rain and snow, this year the temps topped out at 80-degrees.
"My biggest problem now is trying to bring it (the warm weather) back with me." said Irish Senator Maurice Cummins.
"It's lovely to be here," added Ann Cummins. "We're really enjoying our stay."
St. Patrick's Day 2012 brought thousands of people to Emmetsburg, all lining the parade route on Broadway. It was a terrific day for March 17, with temperatures topping out at 80-degrees. The day brought families together for the annual celebration, with the highlight being the Saturday afternoon parade. --Jane Whitmore photo
Maurice and Ann Cummins were honored guests for the annual celebration. Senator Cummins is leader of the Irish Senate.
Emmetsburg Mayor Myrna Heddinger welcomed everyone to Emmetsburg and St. Patrick's Day prior to the start of the parade on Saturday afternoon.
"What a beautiful St. Patrick's Day we have today! On behalf of the citizens and the City of Emmetsburg, we welcome everyone. Everyone is Irish today, so enjoy!"
After presenting the ceremonial key to the city to Irish Dignitary Maurice Cummins, Heddinger turned the stage over to Governor Terry Branstad.
"It's great to be in the Irish Capital of Iowa, Emmetsburg," exclaimed Governor Branstad. "I want you to know this is my 18th year as governor and I have been 15 of those 18 years here at St. Patrick's Day in Emmetsburg. This is the nicest day we've ever had for a St. Patrick's Day Parade in Emmetsburg. Everybody have a great St. Patrick's Day!"
State Senator Jack Kibbie also loved the weather on Saturday. "This is a wonderful crowd, the best crowd I've ever seen here. Normally the temperature, we're trying to get to 40 degrees, not 80 degrees. So, everybody make sure you check out the activities and the food stands and enjoy St. Patrick's Day in Emmetsburg."
Senator Maurice and Ann Cummins began their visit to Iowa at the Statehouse in Des Moines.
"At the capital, we met the Governor and your two representatives for the county," said Sen. Cummins. "I met Sen. Jack Kibbie who introduced me in the Senate and I said a few words there in the Senate itself. It was a nice experience."
In Emmetsburg, the Cummins' first stops were at West Elementary School and Emmetsburg Catholic School.
"We went to the two schools to see wonderful little kids," said Maurice. "They wanted to know about leprechauns, end of the rainbow and the pot of gold. I disappointed them. I said I'd never seen a leprechaun, but I'm still looking."
Even at the beginning of their brief stay in Emmetsburg, Maurice and Ann had good comments about the community.
"This is our first time to the Midwest, to what I call the real America because of the friendliness and the hospitality of the people. It's there and it's real and I must say I'm enjoying it,"said Maurice. "It's like Ireland is in rural areas, when you get away from the capital, the big buildings and everything else, you meet the real people."
Speaking on the economy, Sen. Cummins said, "In Ireland, after about four or five years, it's been very tough on the people. We've had increased taxes. There was an awful lot of debt arising from the collapse of banks and the collapse of the construction industry, in particular Things are stabilizing. We're beginning to create some employment again. We have a 14-percent unemployment rate, which is quite high. In the boom we were down to 4 and 5-percent unemployment, which is really not unemployment at all."
Cummins said a number of jobs have been created recently, with Pay Pal coming to Ireland and bringing 1,000 jobs.
"This is a tremendous boost to an area that was very high unemployment," said the Senator. "We've had a number of other announcements in recent weeks. That's given the people a bit of confidence. If we can get people back spending and getting the economy going again and getting gold going, we'll turn out fine enough."
A new government was put in place in Ireland in 2011, said the Irish Senator. "They've tackled everything with a greater vibrancy. Things take time. People expect things to change overnight and it's not going to happen."
Today, Tuesday, March 20, Ireland's Prime Minister is at the White House in Washington, D.C.
"Enda Kenny, our Prime Minister, will be in the White House on Tuesday," the Senator said. "Jack Kibbie is going to the White House on Tuesday also. He told me there are two delegates from each state going to the function at the White House and he's one of the two from Iowa. He's delighted he's been invited so I told him when he meets the Prime Minister that he mentions my name to him."
Maurice Cummins was elected to the Irish Senate in 2002, 2007 and 2011. The Prime Minister appointed Sen. Cummins as Leader of the Senate.
"We were in office a month when we had a visit from the Queen of England. A week or two afterwards, we had your own President visit us.
"That was a great start to a new government the Queen and the President. It certainly lifted the spirits of the people, which is what's needed in times of recession."
Sen. Cummins was anxious to visit the ethanol plant in Emmetsburg. "I'll be interested to see how that's working and see if there's any potential for ethanol plants in Ireland."
Cummins sees a link between Ireland and Iowa. "We've very alike in that Ireland is an agricultural based community. We have more and more people going back to agriculture," he said. "This year for the first time in over 15 years the agricultural colleges are full and they've had to create extra spaces for people to go back onto the college. And that's very good."
Agriculture and food production are big industries in Ireland. "We export quite an amount of our products dairy products, beef and agricultural produce," said Cummins. "It's very important if it's doing well for the economy and it's great to see so many young people coming up with new ideas, creating new small industries, cheese making, yogurts, various small niches selling to big stores that are selling their products. I think that all helps. I think you can see it in Emmetsburg that if you have small businesses, they are the heart of any community."