PANAMA CITY — If you think the St. Patrick’s Day parties are starting early this weekend, take into account that the holiday officially begins in Ireland at 6 p.m. local time Saturday.
Which implies, at least as some would reckon, that it’s never too early to paint the town green.
St. Patrick’s Day, also called the Feast of St. Patrick, is a cultural holiday and religious holy day celebrated on March 17 and named for the recognized patron saint of Ireland, who lived between AD 385 and 461. Originally a feast day observed by the Catholic Church to commemorate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, it has become a secular celebration of Irish culture.
A public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland and other countries, it is not a legal holiday in the U.S., though it is widely celebrated by people of Irish descent — and those who just like to party.
A splash of green and the sound of bagpipes will snake along Beck Avenue on Saturday for the 16th annual “Where St. Andrew Meets St. Patrick” Parade. “Verdantly dressed” partygoers can guzzle green beer at the local restaurants while watching the parade, which will set out from Oaks by the Bay Park at 4 p.m. and end at Gracie Rae Bar & Grill, 1201 Beck Ave.
There, you’ll find Irish dancers and the Panama City Pipes and Drums playing Irish folk songs. Enjoy Irish “vittles” including corned beef and cabbage, Irish potatoes, Guinness Stout, green beer, Irish Harp beer, Irish whiskey, and popular “Irish coffee” at the restaurants and cafes around the block.
“The goal is for the people of St. Andrews to meet St. Patrick and for them come together, to have some beer and have some good family fun,” said John McVeigh, who owns property along Beck Avenue and is the son of Irish immigrants.
The parade is sponsored by the McVeigh family, the Historic St. Andrews Waterfront Partnership Board, Community Redevelopment Agency-St. Andrews District, and St. Andrews merchants. It was modeled after the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City, according to McVeigh, who grew up in the Bronx and used to march every year in the NYC parade.
“It’s a smaller celebration, but the heart and meaning is in full effect,” he added.
Merchants participating in the celebration include Gracie Rae Bar & Grill at The Shrimp Boat, Los Rancheros, Uncle Ernie’s, Purple Grape and The Little Village, as well as the vintage shops and cafés along Beck.
The event begins at 2 p.m. and lasts until the last revelers leave Gracie Rae. The Irish dancers will be live at Gracie Rae at 3 p.m., with the parade beginning at 4 p.m. leaving from Oaks by the Bay Park and visiting merchants along Beck Avenue, finally ending at Gracie Rae’s. Irish Drums and Bagpipes will perform on the deck at Gracie Rae at 4:30 p.m.
The public is invited to join in the laughter, songs, poetry and jokes under the Great Irish Oak,march in the parade with your favorite flag or wearing green clothing, and join in singing “Amazing Grace” as the sun sets, according to Hannah Stout, event coordinator.
“(The McVeighs) feel it is the best way to experience this wonderful Irish tradition,” Stout said in a news release. “There is something about the skirl of the bagpipes and the banging of the drums that just makes you want to skip along the local parade route. Sure, you’ll feel like looking out on the Galway, a little bit of heaven.”
The party continues downtown as the Panama City Downtown Improvement Board hosts “Paint Downtown Green.” Beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, downtown businesses will be splashed with green in the form of colored lights, flags, shamrocks and chalk paint on the sidewalks. Participating shops and restaurants will have extended hours and daily specials.
Panama City Pipes and Drums will play live tunes at participating locations while the Irish Step Dancers from the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance perform.
Panama City Pipes and Drums, founded in 1998, was the first pipe band to be formed in this part of Florida. The band started with a group of five and has grown to more than 20 performing members, plus students currently in training.
Founded in Dublin in 1995, the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance opened its Panama City branch in 2007 under the teaching of Teresa Kane. Originally from Millstreet, County Cork, Kane has been on the stage since the age of 4 and has won many awards for dancing in Cork, Kerry, and the greater Munster area in Ireland.
“We are extremely excited about this event in downtown Panama City,” said DIB executive director Dutch Sanger. “It will be a fun activity for all, with plenty to do. … It’s the first time we’ve done anything for St. Patty’s Day, and it will be very green and lively.”
The party starts today and lasts through Sunday at Matty’s Irish Pub, 13528 Front Beach Road,
Panama City Beach, where they’ve bent the rules a bit to celebrate “St. Matty’s Day.” The pub will feature live Irish music, dancers, Irish food, green beer and drink specials.
“He brought alcohol to Ireland and is the official patron saint of PCB,” organizers said in a news release.
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s is known for its burgers and wings that ranked No. 2 in Best of Bay 2011. The wings come in dry rubs — Blackened Seasoning or Lemon Pepper — or in hot sauces with varying degrees of heat, as well as Teriyaki, Kickin-Bayou BBQ, Garlic Sweet Jalapeno, Garlic Parmesan and Beef’s Signature Buffalo Sauce. Wash them down with a selection of beer.
Beef O’Brady’s has three Bay County locations: 13800 Panama City Beach Parkway in Panama City Beach (phone 249-1551); 2310 S. State 77 in Lynn Haven (271-0064), and 842 N. Tyndall Parkway in Callaway (215-3905).
Patches, 47232 Thomas Drive, is self-described as “the last local tavern” in Panama City Beach and will feature the Together Band from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. The pub’s specialty is pizza, but Sheppards Pie and Chef Craig’s “famous Corn Beef and Cabbage” is on the menu Saturday and Sunday.
The McIlroy Family will play and sing at the St. James Bay Golf Resort’s Crooked River Grill in Carabelle, from 7-9 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. John, Patti and Katie McIlroy, natives of Edinburgh, Scotland, perform the music of Scotland and Ireland on flute, bagpipes, bodhrans, guitar and vocals.
“We will also be celebrating 24 years in America,” John wrote in an email. “We landed in Atlanta March 16, 1989, so come raise a glass with us!”
There’s no cover charge, but dinner reservations are required; call Nola Tolbert at 697-5050 or visit StJamesBay.com.
St. Andrews Meets St. Patrick
- When: 2-8 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Oaks by the Bay Park, Gracie Rae Bar & Grill and other locations in St. Andrews
- Details: 872-7208
Paint Downtown Green
- When: 5 p.m.-until Saturday
- Where: Downtown Panama City along Harrison Avenue
- Details: Call the DIB at 785-2554