MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- March in lake country is a time of transition.
Businesses switch over to their summer inventories, and the snowmobile trail that winds its way through town has all but succumbed to what the sun has been dishing out.
But the biggest sign of spring is happening inside Andy's Bar, as the Crosslake St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee makes last-minute preps for this weekend's onslaught -- which will bring about 20,000 people to the city.
For 44 years, Crosslake has put on this annual celebration, but it is much more than just a parade. There's something for everybody, including a 5-K race and live bands.
These attractions and more are spread over two days, making this one of the largest celebrations of its kind in the state.
But the story of how this tradition began almost trumps the event's size and scope. And as history has taught us, the best stories usually have an ironic twist.
A transplant from the Chicago area named Tony Maucieri had just opened a supper club in town.
"It was 45 below when we pulled into town, and I said to myself, 'I must be crazy,'" Tony told WCCO in 2016. "But I'm still here because I love it."
And yes, Maucieri is Italian, but everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day.
"It was pretty quiet up here in January, and February, and March and April [laughs]!" said Dawn Maucieri, Tony's daughter. "So my dad and a few of them decided to start a St. Paddy's Day parade."
It was only five or six floats at first.
"They all wore long, green underwear, just dorky," Dawn said.
By some accounts, there were more people in the parade than spectators. But little did they know, that "dorky" beginning would turn into something huge. So huge, in fact, that some people park their cars in the prime spots weeks in advance just to get a front-row seat.
"There's nothing like this community, and that's what my dad loved, too," Dawn said.
Tony Maucieri passed away just last week.
"They're dedicating the parade to him, which is amazing," Dawn said. "I mean, I know he's watching."
True luck has never only belonged to the Irish. Crosslake reminds us of that. Their celebration comes from the heart of an Italian.
Come Saturday, it's a safe bet that Tony Maucieri will be telling St. Patrick himself to find a parking spot -- if he can -- and watch the Best St. Patrick's Day Celebration in Minnesota.
for more features.