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Terry, Betty and Jim Mitchell have been named the St. Patrick's Day Parade grand marshals for 2012. The Mitchell family eventually settled in Erin Prairie after coming to America from County Cork, Ireland.

2012 St. Paddy's grand marshals announced

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Erin Prairie natives Betty Mitchell and her sons, Terry and Jim, have been named the 2012 St. Patrick's Day Parade grand marshals.

"We were quite surprised and kind of honored," Jim said of the reaction to the announcement.

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Terry said St. Patrick's Day is a long-awaited holiday in his family.

"A lot of preparation goes into it and we start celebrating a week before to build up to it," he said.

This year will be no exception.

"This year it will be a lot bigger because it's on a Saturday," he said. "No one has to go to work in the morning and the kids will be out of school."

While the role will be different, participation in the parade is nothing new for the Mitchell family.

"We've had a float in the parade for a number of years," Terry said.

This year is no different.

The more than 100 Mitchell family members will continue to march in the parade without Betty, Terry and Jim, they said. New to the clan this year are the show heifers that will also march with the family.

"There are always horses and animals," Terry said. "This will be something a little different."

The Mitchell family arrived in the area many years ago after traveling by boat from County Cork, Ireland, Betty said.

"Both of my grandfathers came over on the same boat," she said. "They were 1 and 2 years old at the time."

On the Casey side, one grandfather settled near Bass Lake before moving the family to Erin Prairie. On the other side, Betty's grandfather settled his family on a farm between Roberts and Hammond.

Erin Prairie is known for its Irish heritage, Terry said; however, not all Erin Prairie residents are Irish anymore.

"If you looked at a land plat from the 1800s, all the names were Irish names," Terry said. "They were all small Irish farms. It's not that way anymore."

Still, people consider it an Irish community and that's OK with the Mitchell family.

Betty said she's not surprised that her ancestors settled in Erin Prairie because it's very reminiscent of Ireland, "except for the rock fences."

Betty and Jim have both traveled to Ireland. Terry said he plans to take a trip there with his wife.

"We're going to get there some day," he said. "It's on my wife's bucket list."

St. Patrick's Day for the Mitchell family begins with a morning Mass at St. Patrick's Church. A dinner (or some call it lunch) of corned beef and cabbage follows Mass for the "true Irishmen." Other options are also available at the meal.

After the meal, most families make their way to New Richmond to prepare for the parade.

The Mitchells said they don't usually stick around much after the parade because there are things at home that need to be tended to - like Terry's dairy cows.

"We used to stay and listen to the music," Jim said with a laugh. "When we were in our 30s and 40s."

Betty has nine children, six boys and three girls. Along with her kids, she also is grandmother to 35 and great-grandmother to 41 kids. Most of the family still lives in the New Richmond/Erin Prairie area.

Terry and his wife, Bev, have five kids and 17 grandkids. Jim and his wife, Doris, have four kids and four grandkids, with one more on the way.

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