St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations 2023: Parade Day and More
At the age of 16, St. Patrick (just Patrick at the time) was captured from his home in Britain by Irish pirates. He escaped and made his way back to Britain, later returning to Ireland as a Catholic missionary. Not sure that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland as the myth states, but during the fifth century, he did spread Christianity throughout the emerald isle and helped the Celtic population convert from their traditional religious practices. He is the patron saint of Ireland and a much-revered historical figure. In Ireland St. Patrick’s Day is more of a religious holiday, whereas in the United States it is also a big party occasion.
In thinking about St. Patrick being kidnaped at a young age and taken to a foreign land, my sometimes creative mind got to wondering what would happen if St. Patrick was magically transported to Pittsburgh around St. Patrick’s Day. He would probably be humbled by all the attention on him. Being a man of the people, he would first seek out a less fortunate parish where people could use a boost, possibly in the post-industrial Mon Valley. After that he might be a little hungry and could possibly head for a fish fry at a local parish. Or maybe he would be curious about the intriguing thing called a sandwich that the Primanti Brothers had developed their own version of.
St. Patrick would most definitely be the grand marshall of the parade in his honor. Having spent many years of his life in Ireland, he would probably want to imbibe an alcoholic beverage. He would no doubt be amazed that people were drinking a beverage that looked like it had turned bad, green beer. I believe St. Patrick would also want the people of Pittsburgh and its environs to be kind to one another and enjoy the days of drinking, music, and dance in his honor. Sláinte!
Thursday, March 9
Are you up for exploring the mysteries of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth? There’s no more comical or musical way to do it than by attending a re-enactment of the good old Irish song “Finnegan’s Wake.” The song, from the 1860s, inspired James Joyce’s novel of the same title. It’s about a hod carrier named Tim Finnegan who suffers a seemingly fatal accident but revives when a brawl at his wake sprays whiskey into the coffin. Pittsburgh’s Donnie Irish Band performs the dramatic staging (which features a “live corpse”), and the fellows just might do a few more tunes as well, at Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle. Festivities commence at 8 p.m. 2329 Penn Ave., Strip District. (M.V.)
Friday, March 10
If you prefer a fun yet more dignified celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, then Club Cafe‘s The Calm Before the Storm–A Night of Irish Traditional Music and Song with Mark Dignam & Friends might be the ticket for you. Mark Dignam was raised in Finglas, a North Side Dublin suburb, where he showed early aptitude as a singer. He moved to center-city Dublin at 18 and began busking on Grafton Street. He is now Pittsburgh-based and performs with his band, The House of Song. The tradition continues. 7:30 p.m. 56–58 S. 12th St., South Side. (C.M., R.H.)
Saturday, March 11
If your neighborhood seems a little quiet the morning of March 11, it may be because over 200,000 Pittsburghers and visitors are downtown for The St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Having begun as early as 1869 and billed as one of the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country, it includes bands, Irish organizations, Miss Smiling Irish Eyes, and just about every politician in Allegheny County. The 2023 Grand Marshal is Pittsburgh Playwright and retired ad-man, Ray Werner, and Miss Smiling Irish Eyes is Marigrace Murphy. Members of the Queen’s court are Emalee Eakin and Aibreann Shovlin.
Each year brings something slightly different, although who could forget the 1993 parade? It continued despite a blizzard, the worst that the city had seen in over 100 years. (Hopefully no snow this year.)
The parade begins at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and 11th Street, proceeds to Grant Street, and turns right onto the Boulevard of the Allies. Then it marches down the Boulevard to the parade reviewing stand at Stanwix Street and ends at Commonwealth Place.
Remember, anyone who wants to be Irish—is Irish—on St. Paddy’s Day! Parade starts at 10 a.m. Downtown. (R.H.)
Parade Day Bar Happenings
The day and eve of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade make a good time to have a taste of Ireland’s native waters. (Guinness, Harp, and Murphy’s brews are some good ones as are Tullamore D.E.W. and Jameson Irish whiskies.) Have an old Irish toast, such as “May you be in heaven a full half hour before the devil knows you’re dead,” in any of several happenin’ Irish pubs including Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle, McArdle’s, Murphy’s Taproom, McFadden’s, and Riley’s Pour House. For those who don’t imbibe or are designated drivers (thank you!), enjoy a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, a soft drink, or a cup o’ hot tea. (RH)
One of the most popular spots to celebrate the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Day is Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle. The pub will open at 8 a.m. and serve a parade day breakfast. With a tent connected to the pub, the celebration space is doubled. Irish bands and performers hold court all day and night in both spaces beginning at noon and going until about 1 a.m. Mullaney’s will be featuring the top bands on the Pittsburgh Irish music scene including: Donnie Irish Band, Whiskey Limerick, Tullycavy, Andy & Brian, Mark Guiser, and Guaranteed Irish. Mullaney’s will also feature a big party on the actual St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, with the tent remaining and live music in both spaces. The same bands will be reprising their performances. 2329 Penn Ave., Strip District. (RH)
Think traditional Celtic music but with some extra beats per minute—that’s Bastard Bearded Irishmen. The local group is helping Pittsburgh usher in St. Patrick’s Day with its annual Bastard Bearded Irishfest at Thunderbird Cafe and Music Hall. The band performed at the Thrival Music Festival in 2016. Its latest album is 2018’s Drinkin’ to the Dead. Also on the bill are The Bloody Seamen, The Wild Geese, Tiny Wars, Wired Tae the Moon, and on the Front Porch Stage you can listen to Bob Banergee, The Jive Daisy, and several special guests. Bar doors open at 4 p.m., Music Hall at 5 p.m.(C.M., R.H.)
Hard Rock Cafe is hosting their annual parade day party. Many people will flock there to see live music beginning at 12:30 p.m. with free music from Rich Patrick Trio playing traditional Irish sing-alongs form 12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m., then Acoustic Boombox rocks the house from 4 to 6 p.m.. Hello City: A Tribute to Barenaked Ladies closes out the day starting at 8 p.m. for a ticketed event. 230 W. Station Square Dr., Station Square. (R.H.)
Saturday, March 18
As if there’s not already enough happening on a normal Saturday on the South Side, there is the Shamrock Crawl. Here’s the deal: buy a ticket ($15 prior to Saturday, $40 on game day), and you will get reduced prices on drinks, a special Shamrock mug, cover-free access to some of South Side’s best bars, food specials, raffle entry for prizes, and free pictures of the event. 2 – 10 p.m. For participating bars, tickets, and more information visit the Shamrock Crawl website. (R.H.)
Sunday, March 19
How true to its roots is the supposedly authentic Irish music and dance that we get? Maybe it’s best not to care, for as Louis Armstrong once observed, all music is “folk music”—horses don’t create it. The touring show Rhythm of the Dance, which has been circling the globe for the past 20 years and evolving as it goes, is a case in point. Produced by an outfit called National Dance Company of Ireland, the show features traditional Irish step dancers, and musicians with traditional instruments playing for the dances and songs. But there are many touches of modern showmanship as well, and it all seems to work out. Judge for yourself when Rhythm of the Dance visits The Palace Theatre for one performance only. 3 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (M.V.)
Photos of 2019 parade: Rick Handler
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.