Saint Patrick’s Day is when all of those eating and drinking restrictions Catholics placed on themselves are reconsidered—for one day at least. The holiday commemorates Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. It is an official feast day. The required activities include attending church, wearing green and generally having a good time.
There are exciting Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations taking place all over the area this year. We set out with our shillelaghs to explore some of the details. The most elaborate event schedules is ‘Go Irish on The Island,’ which kicked off Monday, March 12 on Pensacola Beach. The week includes drink and food specials, music, poker and card games, karaoke, wear-green specials, a bikini contest and a pub-crawl.
A big part of the beach festivities is the annual Saint Patrick’s Day celebration scheduled at Paddy O’Leary’s.
“We are definitely getting ready for it,” said Paddy’s co-owner Seamas Hunt. “It takes us a few months to plan the event, schedule the bands, install the fencing and work out the details with the Island Authority. I do not do it alone though, my business partner Gary Humphrey and the Paddy’s team does a lot of the work. ”
The kick off on Friday night begins with the band, Not Quite Fab, complete with a green beer toast at midnight. The real party starts with a Catholic mass on Saturday morning.
“It is a holy day as well as a national holiday—it all starts with going to church,” Hunt said. “We have Monsignor Hunt officiating, along with Father Paul Lambert. It should last about a half an hour. After mass, everyone can start celebrating with green beer. Many people who attend our mass do not go throughout the year, they feel more comfortable here.”
Before churches were built on the island, services were held in bars.
On the subject of Saint Patrick, Paddy O’Leary’s has their very own homegrown patron saint doppelganger. Turns out the past Saint Patrick, John Glas from New Orleans, wanted to retire (now he is retired Bishop Glas) and Paddy’s held a contest to find the next Saint Patrick, the winner was Josh Neese.
“He beat out the others,” said Hunt.
Of course, there were qualifications Neese had to have in order to beat the competition.
“The entrants had to dress up in a costume as close to the original as possible, work the crowd and have a realistic accent,” Hunt said. “Our retired Saint Patrick picked his predecessor.”
The food prepared during feast day consists of corned beef and cabbage, along with fish and chips. The employees of Paddy’s are the chefs, who work hard to create the Americanized version of the classic Irish dishes.
Green beer plays a big part in the festivities.
“It is a messy process that Goldring Gulf Distributing Company is nice enough to perform,” Hunt said. “It is green dye injected into kegs by a hand pump. They make them as we need them.”
Paddy O’Leary’s as well as other bars in Pensacola and on the beach are eager to make full use of the holiday.
“We reenact Finnegan’s Wake, complete with a real casket and a eulogy, it goes over really well,” Hunt said. “Then the pub crawl starts.”
From the beach to town there are so many Saint Patrick’s Day events to choose from, get out there and grab some luck.