Irish Cream City: Milwaukee celebrates St. Pat’s

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This year's St. Patrick's Day Parade will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of Wisconsin's Shamrock Club.

While Milwaukee may not be the greenest city of its kind, the Irish pride this time of year renders it one of the most green-spirited. This St. Patrick’s Day, the celebration will extend well beyond March 17. Although energy on Marquette’s campus may fade in light of spring break, the city will nearly burst with authentic Irish food, music, and, of course, plenty of drinks.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Downtown Milwaukee

Rooted in Milwaukee as one of its oldest traditions, this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will also honor the 50th anniversary of Wisconsin’s Shamrock Club — the state’s oldest and largest Irish American membership club.

Parade director Michael O’Leary has practically been counting down the seconds until the historic day arrives.

“We were one of the first St. Patrick’s Day Parades ever,” O’Leary said. He said the first parade was held in 1843, before Wisconsin even established itself as a state.

The parade may be one of the oldest, but it’s also one of the best. This year’s celebration, to begin at noon Saturday, March 13, will feature all six of Milwaukee’s Irish dance groups with both children and adults dressed in authentic Irish costumes performing on individual floats.

Irish step dancers perform in last year's St. Patrick's Day Parade

Other highlights include a pedal tavern, a 16-person bicycle used for pub crawls, and a post parade party to follow at the Irish Cultural & Heritage Center, 2133 W. Wisconsin Ave., with dancing, food and beer open to the general public for $1.

But the parade is about more than just floats and marching bands. Volunteers with carts will wind their way through the parade route collecting donations for Hunger Task Force.

O’Leary expects between 70,000 and 100,000 attendees from all across Wisconsin and the U.S. to flood the streets for the day.

“If the weather is what we think it’s going to be, it’s going to be a very good year,” he said.

As he believes, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

County Clare Irish Inn & Pub

1234 N. Astor St.

Enveloped in warm hunter green walls and accented with lush mahogany furniture, County Clare emits a cozy ambiance with nearly all the comforts of home. With its spacious dining room, friendly Irish sayings adorning the walls and upbeat Irish acoustics, it offers the tranquility of Ireland to Irishmen and Wisconsinites alike.

But not for long. This St. Patrick’s Day, the inn and pub will transform itself into one of the city’s many hotspots for drinking and toasting. Opening its doors at 6 a.m., County Clare will clear the dining room to expand its venue for thousands of people to take part in its celebration — now a 12-year-long tradition.

Server Will Sharkey contends that County Clare upholds the best party in all of Milwaukee.

“We are the most authentic Irish pub in the city,” Sharkey said. “We have the most authentic Irish food.”

To him, however, it’s much more than a party.

“The Irish that are in Milwaukee — this is their home,” Sharkey said.

A “Blessing of the Shamrock” by a local priest will kick-start the livelier components of St. Patrick’s Day — Trinity Irish Dancers performing their trademark Irish step dancing and a few different Irish music performers including Ian Gould and Frogwater. A full sandwich bar will accompany the inn’s drink bar as well.

Part of the celebration will carry on outdoors in a heated tent with the pub stocked extensively to last through 2 a.m.

Sharkey said County Clare combines the Irish culture with the American tradition of drink-till-you-drop.

Trinity Three Irish Pubs

125 E. Juneau Avenue

Recipe for one stellar St. Patrick’s Day celebration: take two related Irish pubs, close down the street in between them, and start up the Irish ditties and kegs at 6 a.m.

In collaboration with Harp Irish Pub, Trinity Three Irish Pubs is throwing what may turn out to be one of the loftiest bashes in the city. Together, the two will erect a tent across Edison Street to conjoin their festivities and add to the spirit of the holiday.

The tent will feature a fully equipped bar, a stage for live music and an Irish marketplace sponsored by the Irish Cultural & Heritage Center of Milwaukee with T-shirts, beads, key chains and all sorts of mementos for sale.

A second stage will spotlight more live performances inside Trinity Three Irish Pubs. Highlight acts throughout the day include Trinity Irish Dancers, McMenamin Dancers, Irish folk musician Derek Byrne and popular Wisconsin cover band Element 13.

Matt Schmidt, general manager of the Harp and the Black Rose, who additionally helps run Trinity, said the location merges the old-school-Irish vibe of the Harp, around 40 years old, with the newer style of Trinity, which opened in December 2007.

“It’s becoming the Irish intersection of Milwaukee,” Schmidt said.

He also said the attending crowd comprises all ages and varieties of partygoers, be they college students, business professionals or the elderly with their grandchildren.

“We see such a wide range of people,” Schmidt said.

While St. Patrick’s Day proves to be an incredibly long day for Schmidt and his coworkers, he simply wants to show people the best experience he can.

“To me, on that day, ‘Irish’ means having a great time,” Schmidt said.

Gaelic Storm at the Pabst Theater

144 E. Wells St.

It’s a perfect coincidence that Gaelic Storm’s upcoming concert at the Pabst Theater takes place on St. Patrick’s Day — particularly since it’s the band’s third time performing at the Pabst on the holiday.

The world-renowned Celtic rock band is once again scheduled to take over the stage March 17 for an 8 p.m. show that will easily electrify its audience. With its modernized Irish folk songs, Gaelic Storm knows how to draw crowds to their feet and push everyone to stomp and belt along with their lyrics.

Ryan Matteson, director of public relations at the Pabst Theater, expects an almost full house — between 1,100 and 1,200 audience members.

After four total performances at the Pabst, Matteson said Gaelic Storm has developed stronger ties with both the theater and the city of Milwaukee.

“We’re definitely thankful they continue to come back on St. Patrick’s Day,” Matteson said in an e-mail.  “I think over the years of our relationship of working together, it’s become a perfect fit for everyone involved.”

For some, Gaelic Storm will conclude a very high-energy day. For others, it may just begin it — particularly with the $3 Pabst Blue Ribbon Tall Boys the theater will sell during the event.

In either case, the performance will certainly show Milwaukee how to host one of its liveliest Irish shindigs.

Tickets for the show are $29.50, and doors open at 7 p.m.

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