After waving small American flags to patriotic tunes, a crowd of new Americans inside the St. Paul RiverCentre proudly recited the Pledge of Allegiance on Tuesday afternoon for the first time as U.S. citizens.
"I am so happy I don't really know what to do," said Weete Koropuh, who immigrated from Liberia and braved the snowstorm Tuesday along with nearly 2,000 others to take the oath in two separate ceremonies. "I am happy to be an American citizen."
People from at least 99 countries in all colors of winter gear and their best outfits packed the center for the ceremonies — the culmination of years of work.
Federal Judge Kesha Tanabe encouraged the approximately 1,000 oath-takers gathered for the 2 p.m. ceremony to be proud of their accomplishments — and all of their friends and family members to be inspired by them.
"Our beautiful state is the current and ancestral home of the Dakota people and the Ojibwe people," Tanabe said. "But our state is also home to many generations of immigrants, like you, immigrants who have chosen to become citizens of the United States, and who have chosen to make Minnesota their home."
Afterwards, friends Omar Karshe and Farah Salad, who immigrated from Somalia, posed for pictures and took Snapchat selfies while holding up their certificates.
"I was waiting 14 years to become a citizen because they messed up my name. So I'm excited today like there's no tomorrow," Omar said.
Salad waited five years for his ceremony but said he was just as happy as his friend.
After a few more photos, Ravi Persaud of Guyana planned to take his mother and wife out somewhere nice for dinner. Four years ago, he attended his mother's naturalization ceremony, and now they will wait for his wife's, which they hope will be in two years.
"It is a joyous day," Persaud said. "We've been waiting for this since 2016."
Koropuh wasn't sure about what to do after her photos. Her son's vote? An all-American pizza party.