By Jillian Amodio
While the calendar says we are inching closer to St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), we aren’t observing it in quite the same way. But one of our favorite holidays here on the Bay can still be celebrated, as our Irish brethren tell us.
John O’Leary, owner of Naptown Events and founder of the Annapolis St. Patrick’s Day parade has transformed the way we celebrate since the parade’s founding in 2011. “St. Patrick’s Day itself has always been busy, but if we were going to do the parade, I wanted to create an entire week of Irish activities, especially for those who were coming in for the parade from out of town or even out of the country,” O’Leary says. “We have people from Norway that have been coming to the parade for the past three years. Every year it just grows bigger and bigger.”
Last year the parade was able to occur because it is was held the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day—before the state went into lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Last year we probably had the largest, or only, St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world because everyone else was doing theirs the following weekend and had to cancel,” he says with a laugh. While the parade won’t happen this March, O’Leary is not letting that dampen his spirits. He is saving up his energy and excitement for September, when the ninth annual parade returns for a full weekend of festivities, including the popular Hooley on City Dock the night before the parade featuring Dublin 5 and the 20th anniversary remembrance of 9/11, a special concert to honor local heroes who have supported the area during the pandemic, and Shamrock the Dock after the parade.
If September seems too far away and you want to mark the occasion on St. Patrick’s Day itself, you can livestream a concert by popular Celtic group Gaelic Storm.
Band member Patrick Murphy is a native of Ireland who now lives in Annapolis but the rest of the band members are spread across the country. Gaelic Storm had its first big break in California in 1996 when they were spotted and recruited for the movie Titanic. Murphy jokes that for a while many people thought they “weren’t a real band” and were “just actors.” They ended up being signed by record label Virgin EMI. From there the band’s career took off and they began touring full time. Through touring Murphy fell in love with the Annapolis area and decided to make it home.
Murphy says that, for the band, “St. Patrick’s Day is like Christmas day and Santa Claus, and it felt like all of that excitement has been taken away” when they had to cancel their show last year. “The first couple of months were really strange,” Murphy says. “Last year was the first year ever we were home for St. Patrick’s Day.” Even so, Murphy says he is especially grateful for the time he has gotten to spend with his wife Susie, and two children Patrick, and Lola.
Gaelic Storm’s concert will air on their website at 8pm on St. Patrick’s Day ($22, RSVP: www.gaelicstorm.com).
Local bagpiper and student 19-year-old Mackenzie Boughey will also be finding alternative ways of channeling the Irish spirit. Her family is of Irish and English heritage and she grew up enjoying the various St. Patrick’s Day celebrations the area had to offer. It was at these events that she discovered the bagpipe.
While attending a fair, Boughey met a bagpiper named Eddy. “I was talking to him after the show and I really wanted to know how they worked,” she says. She was fascinated and soon began taking lessons from local instructor Hal Cummings. When asked what she enjoys most about the instrument Boughey says “I love that it is such a rare instrument. It’s fun to be a little different and its always such a crowd-pleaser.” While she won’t be playing live anywhere this year, she hopes to post a set on her Facebook page so people can still enjoy the sounds and sights of the bagpipe.
As always, the Irish Restaurant Company will mark the occasion, although the celebrations will be smaller due to pandemic restrictions. Special menus will be available for carryout and dine-in, but reservations will be required to enjoy live music (see sidebar). Get your own glass of Guinness engraved to take home at Killarney House in Davidsonville, Galway Bay in Annapolis, Brian Boru in Severna Park and Guinness Blonde glassware will be given away tonight (March 11, starting at 6:30pm) at Galway Bay. Details: https://irishrestaurantcompany.com/.