St. Patrick’s Day in South Dakota: A History

The image features a group of people in a demonstration or parade. They are carrying various colorful flags, which could symbolize different causes or organizations. The image has been edited with a filter to give it a vibrant, almost cartoon-like quality with enhanced colors and outlines. The setting appears to be a city street with a modern glass building in the background, sporting banners that mention 'Equity' and 'Justice'. Sioux Falls, South Dakota St Patrick’s day parade

St. Patrick’s Day, a cultural and religious celebration held on March 17th, is a day that honors St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. In South Dakota, this day has been embraced with enthusiasm and has become a significant part of the state’s cultural tapestry.


The tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in South Dakota can be traced back to the influx of Irish immigrants in the 1880s. These immigrants brought with them their customs and traditions, including the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Today, the Irish population is the third-largest ancestry group in South Dakota, which perhaps explains the state’s vibrant St. Patrick’s Day festivities³.

One of the most notable celebrations in South Dakota is the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Sioux Falls. This event started in 1980, inspired by Sylvia Henkin, who proposed the idea after witnessing the grandeur of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Despite not being Irish herself, Henkin’s initiative led to the first parade in Sioux Falls, which saw a surprising turnout with only three days’ notice¹.

Over the years, the parade has become a staple event, marking the unofficial start to spring in Sioux Falls. It’s a day when the city’s streets are awash with green, as residents and visitors alike come together to celebrate. The parade has evolved, with its route now concentrated along Phillips Avenue, creating a more intimate and festive atmosphere¹.

The celebration is not just about the parade; it’s a day for the people of South Dakota to connect with their heritage. For many, like the Murphy family who have participated since the parade’s inception, it’s an opportunity to express their Irish pride and keep family traditions alive¹.

As we look forward to the next St. Patrick’s Day parade, we remember the history and the people who have made this day a memorable one in South Dakota. It’s a testament to the state’s ability to adopt and cherish the cultural heritage of its diverse population.


(1) St Patrick’s Day in South Dakota | Travel South Dakota. https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/trip-ideas/st-patricks-day-south-dakota.
(2) History of the Sioux Falls St. Patrick’s Day Parade – KELOLAND.com. https://www.keloland.com/news/eye-on-keloland/history-of-the-sioux-falls-st-patricks-day-parade/.
(3) St Patrick’s Day: 10 Surprising Facts | TIME. https://time.com/6957676/st-patricks-day-facts-history-true-story/.
(4) Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Sioux Falls – KELOLAND.com. https://www.keloland.com/keloland-com-original/celebrating-st-patricks-day-in-sioux-falls/.

St. Patrick’s Day in South Dakota: A History

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