Party Like the Irish this weekend
Michael Wilcox, Publisher/Editor
I confess one day a year I become Irish. No it’s not necessarily St. Patrick’s Day. And no it’s not when I attend a U-2 concert. It is the Saturday of Clare’s annual Irish Festival. That day we dress in green, drink green beer and grasshoppers, and dance the jig to Irish tunes. That day is the biggest day in Clare’s long list of activity-filled weekends.
Former Clare Mayor and longtime goodwill ambassador for the Clare County REVIEW, Al Iacco, told me we all had to be Irish this weekend. To him, a staunch Italian, who always claimed to in charge of the Italian mafia in town, being Irish was akin to rooting for Michigan State (he’s a staunch U of M fan), but this weekend you can bet he’ll be dressed in green holding court in the Doherty, even though he might need a walker to get around.
Al has many memories of past Irish festivals. I have far fewer. Before I purchased this newspaper five Irish Festivals ago, I came to town to check out the Clare party. Now mind you I have been in many small towns, and checked out many festivals in my years as a newspaperman, but never did I experience such frivolity as was taking place here.
It was simply crazy. I remember standing on the street corner, watching the many parade participants go by. It was a cold, blustery day and I was literally freezing. The parade was never ending. It just kept coming and coming. I could see the fire trucks and cop cars in the distance turning on to McEwan and knew that the end was near so I high-tailed it to the Doherty to catch some warmth and green beer, thinking I would beat most of the card.
Didn’t happen. The Doherty was packed wall to wall from the bar to the restaurant to the lobby. The only green beer I got was that that was spilled on my coat. Claustrophobia was setting in and I had to make my way back outside. The streets were filling up with revelers. I could swear I was in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve, but nope, it was McEwan St. in Clare.
I made my way to the bed races. I had a hard time visualizing racing with beds, but there they were. All sorts of decorated frames and mattresses lined up with their teammates to dash the approximate quarter mile, hanging on to their bed in the process. It was fun, it was unique, but most of all it was crazy.
Everybody was raving about the Clown Band from Scottsville, Mi. My first year in Clare, I’m sorry to say I missed their performance, probably because I scoffed at the fact that an instrumental band from a town I had never heard of, was capable of entertaining anyone.
Boy was I wrong. A few years later I caught their performance at The Moose Lodge. I made my way their after the parade expecting to find only a few people there. Wrong again, the joint was packed, and the Lodge can hold a lot of people. Thank God, I was toting a camera, and when I told them where I was from, got a front row seat. What great fun! Yeah these guys are talented instrumentalists but as their name denotes, the best part of their act is their comedy.
Probably my greatest memory of the Irish Fest however, occurred last year. While sitting at a local watering hole enjoying my green beer, my wife and I got to talking to a couple next to us. They began showing pictures of their dogs, and lamented how they were going to have to give up one of them.
My wife, being the dog lover she has always been, immediately offered to take the brown lab named Cocoa. To this day I have mixed feelings about Cocoa. I have written a couple of columns about her misdeeds- I haven’t mentioned that she literally tore up a full-sized couch. The dog has been monumentally destructive, but we still love her. She can be as cuddly and so friendly one moment, and then the next she is eating the roses you worked so hard to grow.
Kinda like the Irish Festival, SIMPLY CRAZY, but one of the better times you will have.