O’NEILL, NE — It seems like everything in O’Neill, Nebraska is Irish.
From the garden center, to the water tower, and even to the dumpsters, everything has Irish pride. But are the people Irish?
“We are today and the rest of the week. Yes, everyone is,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lauri Havranek said.
While that’s not literally true, the town does back up its claim as the Irish Capital of Nebraska. First, by being officially designated with that title by the governor in 1967, but also by boasting a higher percentage of people with Irish ancestry than other area towns with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Some of the town gathered in downtown Wednesday night to celebrate induction into the Irish Walk of Fame.
Wednesday’s presentation kicked off what is a five day long celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. And 2017 is the 50th year of the the celebration, so Havranek says it will be bigger than ever.
“We just want everybody to know that we’ve been around for 50 years and we’re going to be around for a lot more,” Havranek said.
She says the weekend’s festivities will include a bigger rubber duck hunt, bigger name bands, a parade with over 100 entries, and more Irish Dancers on the world’s largest Shamrock.
The event’s gotten so big officials decided to recognize the founders, thus the Irish Walk of Fame. One of the inductees, Junior Adamson, helped start the celebration in 1967. He gained notoriety for being in charge of dying the beer green… which was apparently popular.
“I could take a colored keg in, come back an hour and 15 later and it would be empty,” Adamson said. “The crowd was so great I would have to carry them in.”
But Adamson says despite the green beer, the green shamrocks, and a green horse, the festivities are really about town pride.
“We made not all be Irish,” Adamson said. “Like, my father was a Swede, but my mother was a tough god-danged Irishmen. Everybody’s got a little Irish in them on St. Patrick’s Day.”
For a complete schedule of activities visit http://www.oneillchamber.com/uploads/8/8/8/0/88803740/stpatsposter17-2.pdf.