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St. Patrick’s Day greening up the county
Rainy forecast may postpone some local celebrations.
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Mick Moloney brings Irish music, dance and folklore to LCC. Read the full story.
PINELLAS COUNTY – Green clothes, green beer, leprechauns, shamrocks and the luck of the Irish – it has to be St. Patrick’s Day.

Two of the biggest local St. Patrick’s Day celebrations take place at O’Keefe’s Tavern and Restaurant in Clearwater and Flanagan’s Irish Pub in Dunedin.

This year is the 44th year that O’Keefe’s has celebrated the holiday with a festival. This year’s fun takes place under the “big tent” from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., weather permitting, and will include continuous live entertainment by the Dunedin Bag Pipers, Irish dancers, and Irish bands and performers. Food will include corned beef and cabbage, Mulligan stew and green beer. A costume contest, prizes and games will top off the celebration. O’Keefe’s is at 1219 S. Fort Harrison Ave. The Jolly Trolley will transport from Clearwater Beach, Island Estates and Sand Key on Thursday from 2 to 10 p.m. Call 442-9034.

Flanagan’s will host a Street Festival on Main Street starting at 11 a.m., also weather permitting. The day will include entertainment by Noel Cooney and Jeff Glover and other, Irish Step Dancers, Pipe Band, as well as plenty of corned beef and cabbage, corned beef sandwiches, shepherds pie, Guinness stew, green beer and more. Flanagan’s is at 465 Main St. Call 736-4994.

Another local celebration will be hosted by Tommy Duff’s Irish Aviation Pub. At 5:05 p.m. Thursday, the “World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade” will proceed from Tommy Duff’s and travel to the neighboring Island Way Grill. Word has it, weather permitting, that parade participatns might be diverted to the Memorial Causeway to toss beads at passersby. The parade will take a break at the Island Way Grill for a St. Patrick’s Day toast before heading back to Tommy Duff's to continue the celebration. Among the new events this year will be hourly singing of “Danny Boy” to honor all who have fought for freedom. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Tommy Duff’s is at 126 Island Way, Island Estates. Call 580-0061 or 449-1366.

Most Americans, whether of Irish descent or not, enjoy the levity of Ireland’s greatest national holiday and holy day. California, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and Illinois have the largest populations of Irish-Americans, according to www.euroamericans.net, and these population centers are where most of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades and festivals take place. Some cities are even known to dye their rivers and streams green.

Regardless of where one might live, most everyone wears green on St. Patrick’s Day or suffers the consequences of being pinched. However, wearing of the green is not an Irish tradition, according to www.irishcultureandcustoms.com.

“Wearing green is strictly a U.S. custom, as the color green is not popular in Ireland and considered to be an unlucky color,” states www.fieldpto.org. “Many people in the U.S. also eat Irish stew and corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. Corned beef is not an Irish dish. A traditional meal in Ireland would be ham and cabbage or bacon and cabbage.”

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in the United States on March 17, 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City, according to www.marvelcreations.com.

“Suddenly, annual St. Patrick’s Day parades became a show of strength for Irish-Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of political candidates,” the Web site said.

March 17 was chosen to celebrate the life of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland as it is the date most believe to be the day of his death, according to www.st-patricks-day.com.

“It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century,” states the information on www.st-patricks-day.com. “At the age of 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.”

The site also tells how the holiday and holy day is marked in Ireland. “With the exception of restaurants and pubs, almost all businesses close on March 17. Being a religious holiday as well, many Irish attend mass, where March 17 is the traditional day for offering prayers for missionaries worldwide before the serious celebrating begins.”

Many traditions, stories and icons are associated with St. Patrick’s Day, including the luck of the Irish. According to www.riverdeep.net, three good luck symbols are associated with St. Patrick’s Day - finding a four-leaf clover, wearing green and kissing the Blarney Stone.

Most people also think of Shamrocks – three-leaf clovers when they think of things Irish.

“The origins of the shamrock are lost in antiquity, but legend suggests that it was used by St. Patrick in the fifth century to demonstrate the meaning of the Trinity,” according to information on www.geocities.com/EnchantedForest. “The shamrock is found on Irish medieval tombs and on old copper coins, known as St. Patrick’s money. The plant was reputed to have mystic powers ... the leaves standing upright to warn of an approaching storm.”

“The Blarney Stone is a stone set in the wall of the Blarney Castle tower in the Irish village of Blarney,” according to www.m­arvel­creat­ions.­com. “Kissing the stone is supposed to bring the kisser the gift of persuasive eloquence. The legend says that an old woman cast a spell on the stone to reward a king who had saved her from drowning. Kissing the stone while under the spell gave the king the ability to speak sweetly and convincingly. It’s difficult to reach the stone. Kissers have to lie on their back and bend backward or downward, holding iron bars for support.”

Leprechauns also are considered Irish. For those who don’t know, leprechauns are little make-believe fairies. They are the little old men who are shoemakers for the fairies. They usually stand about 2 feet tall. Treasure hunters can often track down a leprechaun by the sound of his shoemaker’s hammer. According to legend, if one can catch a leprechaun, they should force him to tell where he hides his gold. Also, it’s possible to follow a rainbow to its end and find the leprechaun’s pot of gold.

March is Irish-American month

President George W. Bush has declared March to be Irish-American month. According to the Presidential Proclamation, “The story of the Irish in America is an important part of the history of our country. This month, we pay tribute to Americans of Irish descent who have shaped our Nation and influenced American life.

“Long before the great wave of Irish immigration in the 1840s, people of Irish ancestry were defining and defending our Nation. Charles Thomson, an Irishman by birth, served as Secretary of the Continental Congress and helped design the Great Seal of the United States. Irish-born Commodore John Barry fought for our country’s independence and later helped found the United States Navy.

“Irish-Americans have been leaders in our public life, and they have retained a proud reverence for their heritage. In June 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke to the Parliament in Dublin and told the story of the Irish Brigade, a regiment that fought valiantly for the Union and suffered terrible losses during the Civil War. Two decades after President Kennedy’s visit, President Ronald Reagan returned to his great-grandfather’s hometown in County Tipperary, Ireland, and greeted the crowd in their own Irish language.

A Toast to St. Patrick

Saint Patrick’s, the holy and tutelar man;
His beard down his bosom like Aaron’s ran.
Some from Scotland, some from Wales,
will declare that’s from where he came,
But I care not, now he’s risen to fame.
The pride of the world and his enemies scorning,
I will drink to St. Patrick, today, in the morning!

– Anonymous
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