Eire we go! City preps for St. Patrick’s Day fun

Grab the shillelagh, penny whistle and badhran and head to the seisiún for a bit of practice on the “Londonderry Air.”

The Friendly Sons and Daughters of Ireland and the city’s Parks & Recreation Department are hosting the annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival and Parade on Friday and Saturday, March 16-17, at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center.

“It’s a day to celebrate the Irish heritage,” said Judy Williams, parade chairwoman. “We want to keep the traditions alive. That’s our major focus.”

Michael Collins would be proud.

Williams said the festivities will kick off at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 16. There’ll be five hours of Irish music and food aplenty. The festival closes at 10 p.m. that day.

“We’re very excited,” Williams said. “We got the Dublin City Ramblers from Ireland again.”

The Irish folk music band has been around since the 1960s. Back then, the name was the Jolly Tinkers, but the band changed it to the Quare Fellas for a few years. It reformed in 1970 with members who’d go onto legendary status in Irish music, such as Patsy Watchorn and Sean McGuinness. He’s still with the Dublin City Ramblers. The band made waves during The Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1978, by releasing the album, “Irish Republican Jail Songs.”

But good Celtic music exists not just on the Emerald Isle, but among the Irish diaspora, too. The Treasure Coast’s own Rowdy Micks will perform again at the festival. That band includes Rowdy Carlton on guitar and vocals, Mick Geever on the penny whistle, flute and pipes, Kathy Porter-Zogran and Peggie O’Neill on violins, John Millroy on the banjo and bodhran (the Irish drum), and Freeman Sherrill on guitar. They do a range of tunes from Turlough O’Carolan to … well, to fun drinking songs.

Also on hand will be local Irish guitarist and vocalist Bill Delaney.

“He and his granddaughter will be performing,” Williams said.

But, what’s Irish music without some of that famous stepdance? Tir Na Greine will be on hand – or, rather, on foot. If you can’t figure out the dance group’s Gaelic pronunciation, don’t worry about it. It means “Land of Sunshine.”

There’ll be more Irish dance. “A family has joined the Friendly Sons and Daughters of Ireland, the Vaughn family, and they have five children, all of whom do the Irish dancing,” Williams said. “They will be in the parade and they will be on stage, too.”

Speaking about the parade, it starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 17.

The Palm Beach County Firefighters Pipes and Drums and Treasure Coast Pipes and Drums will be in the parade, along with dozens of others. Not all of them are orange and green.

“It varies from year to year, but usually we have between 20 and 30 groups marching,” Williams said. “The Italian-Americans, they march with us. The German-Americans, they march with us.”

What would a St. Patrick’s Day festival be without a bit of games and food?

“There will be a carnival and there will be corned beef and cabbage,” Williams said.

On Saturday, the festival will be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. All events are at the Civic Center, 9221 SE Civic Center Place.

The Friendly Sons and Daughters of Ireland is looking for members. One of its big projects stems directly from the collective Irish remembrance of the Great Hunger, a period of mass starvation in Ireland in the mid-1800s.

The organization donates to Grace Packs, a not-for-profit that works with the St. Lucie County Schools to help ensure students get enough to eat.

“They give them backpacks with food so they can eat on the weekend,” Williams said.

And, of course, the organization celebrates all things Irish.

“You could be 100 percent or 50 percent or just wish you were Irish,” Williams said.

Meetings are monthly September to May at the Knights of Columbus Council #7514, 451 SW Ravenswood Lane, Port St. Lucie.


For more about the Friendly Sons and Daughters of Ireland, visit www.pslirish.com.    

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