Best way to ring in spring is with a St. Paddy’s jig and song
Given our nation’s collective fascination with all things Irish, it’s little surprise that we go hog wild on St. Patrick’s Day. As much as we might pride ourselves on bucking national trends up here in Alaska, the list of who’s not throwing a big St. Paddy’s Patty’s Day bash is a lot shorter than the list of those that are:
You’ve got a couple of Irish-flavored public houses to choose from: Reilly’s, where you’ll pay for the drinks but the soup is free, and McGinley’s, which hosts weekly Irish music sessions and occasional ceilis (more on that in a moment). For St. Patrick’s Day, McGinley’s will have pipers and dancers popping in throughout the day and night, plus live music from Crooked Road and The Whiskey Jacks. Either come early or come prepared to wait in line; McGinley’s always fills up and stays full on St. Patrick’s Day.
The folks at Reilly’s like to say that they have just one rule: “Be nice or be gone.” The service and atmosphere are both great (think cozy log cabin – miles away from this building’s previous life as the Cheechako), with a few comfy corners to settle into and people-watch. Come St. Patrick’s Day they’ll also throw in a giant, heated outdoor tent (complete with double-size bar and dance floor) to handle the crowd, plus a little extra parking – but you might want to take a cab to save yourself the trouble.
In return you get “the best service in town on Paddy’s Day,” corned beef sandwiches, the aforementioned soup, and a front-row seat for pipers and dancers stopping in throughout the day. Heads up: The bar will be cash only, no tabs.
The folks at the Tap Root always throw a great St. Patrick’s Day bash. This year’s details weren’t quite ready at press time, but years past have included great live music plus Irish dancers and pipers passing through (are you sensing a pattern here?); you can get the details about this year’s event at taprootalaska.com. If you’re on the south side, Mo’s O’Brady’s on Huffman is a great place to settle in for a drink and a meal, and to wait for the pipers to come through at least twice.
If you’re getting the feeling that those pipers log a lot of miles on St. Patrick’s Day, you’re right. As of press time, Crow Creek Pipes and Drums president Bill Watson says they’re planning to make an entire weekend of it – so look for pipers and drummers doing pub crawls Friday and Saturday evenings, then all day on Sunday. Their 2013 itinerary will be available at crowcreekpipes.com by the week before St. Patrick’s Day and, if they leave you feeling inspired, they offer free lessons and welcome all ages.
Finally, Celtic Treasures has always been a gathering place for lovers of all things Celtic in Anchorage. On St. Patrick’s Day they kick it up a notch with traditional Irish foods and musicians, singers, and dancers wandering in and out throughout the day.
Get Your Jig On
For a slightly less-crowded Irish experience, visit the Irish Club of Alaska’s St. Patrick’s Day ceili (a big social gathering built around live Irish music and folk dancing) at McGinley’s on Sunday, March 10, from 4 to 7pm. The ceilis are always family-friendly events and, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that I’m on the Irish Club board and know from personal experience: If you can walk, you can do Irish folk dancing!
For a more vicarious (and Riverdance-y) experience, the Irish Dance Academy of Alaska puts on a great dance show every year; this year its Celtic Rendezvous starts at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3 – so if you just happen to be reading this early in the month, you better hustle. Tickets cost $15.
If you’ve missed the show, odds are good that some of the Irish Dance Academy of Alaska’s students will be popping into bars and pubs around town throughout St. Patrick’s Day, so keep your eyes peeled and drop a dollar in their tip bucket – they’ll have been on their feet for close to 12 hours by the time they’re done.
You’ll have another chance to catch dancers from both the Irish Dance Academy and Northern Lights Celtic Dancers at Arctic Siren’s “The Derry Aires and Friends” concert on Saturday, March 16, starting at 7 p.m. WHERE WILL THIS BE? In addition to the dancers there’ll be performances from soloists Dawn Berg and Destany Hawley plus the headliners, mostly-a-capella-but-sometimes-not vocal ensemble The Derry Aires. Tickets cost $20, cabaret seating; questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 245-7311.
Another Type of Jig
Drinking (or dancing) yourself under the table on St. Patrick’s Day is all well and good, but you’ve got to make room for all that beer somehow. Solution: The Bear Tooth’s Shamrock Shuffle on Saturday, March 16. Last year’s Shamrock Shuffle was capped at 1,000 entries and sold out quickly; 1,500 slots are available this year, but no doubt it’ll sell out again.
You can get all the details at skinnyraven.com; key points include parking at West High only – leave yourself time to walk or job back to the starting point at the Bear Tooth – and then leaving yourself time to enjoy the Bear Tooth’s special brunch menu, plus a free pint of beer or soda in your commemorative pint glass, once you’re done.