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Clare’s 37th Irish Festival this weekend!

Clare, dubbed the “city of festivals,” is holding the biggest festival of the year, the 37th annual Irish Festival all this weekend!

. The City has been getting ready for the festival all winter. In February the Irish Festival Best Frame Doubles began at Gateway Lanes. The event ends Sunday with prizes totaling $1,800.  Walgreen’s Irish Festival Past Photo Contest started February 17 and that winner will be announced this Saturday.

The weekend festival events officially began Wednesday and wrap up again Sunday, March 18.

Activities on Wednesday included the all-day Business Window Decorating Judging; the annual Irish Business After Hours sponsored by Firstbank and the Doherty Hotel; and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Art and Silent Auction also held at the Doherty following Business After Hours.

Thursday marked the start of the Kathy Rynearson Memorial Food Drive, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day through Saturday. Kathy, who owned the Lone Pine Restaurant and Motel for many years, was a Godsend for people in need throughout the area. The drive is held in her honor. Food donated during the weekend drive will go to the Mid Michigan Community Action Agency for distribution.

Thursday afternoon was also the annual Irish Recipe Contest. Judging began at 6 p.m. and lucky spectators got to sample some delicious homemade Irish dishes.

Special events are planned all weekend long.

The annual Children’s Kickoff Carnival will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Clare Primary School and Extreme Green Bowling is scheduled at 9 p.m. at Gateway Lanes.

Saturday starts off with the annual Leprechaun Contest at Witbeck’s Family Foods at 8:45 a.m.; Cupcake Decorating from 9 to 11 a.m. at JT Bakers; and the annual Irish Craft Show all day at the Clare Primary School.

Also beginning at 9 a.m. is the 2K Walk, 5K & 10K Road Race starting behind the Doherty. Even the youngsters can get in on the fun with the Kids’ Fun Run beginning on Pine Street at 10:45 (registration 7:30 to 8:45 a.m.).

At 10:30 the fun is on McEwan Street where the annual Bed Races are held between State and Sixth Streets. Every year the races settle a rivalry between the Clare Cops and Clare Firemen among many other races.

When noon rolls around people will be lining the streets for the annual Irish Parade down McEwan from Wilcox to Third Street. Line up for the parade begins at 10 a.m.

Right after the parade the winners of the month long Irish Festival Past Photo Contest will be announced at Walgreens.

Especially for the kids, Yogi Bear & Boo-Boo will hold a Meet & Greet from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Dairy Phil; 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. shows of High Five Juggling, Magic and More will be held at the Ideal Theatre.

Saturday evening events will be highlighted by the announcement of the Clare Irish Raffle winner at 8 p.m. at the Doherty and winner of the Irish Trip Raffle at the Doherty at 8:30 p.m.

To wind up the evening, at 9 p.m., Extreme Green Bowling starts at Gateway Lanes and the Karaoke Star Search Finals, which began in February, will be held in the Lounge at Gateway Lanes.

If Irish cuisine – Reubens, corned beef and cabbage and boiled dinner — are your downfall, Clare will be definitely be the place to go this weekend.

Irish food specials will be available at the Doherty Hotel where you can enjoy a traditional Irish Buffet; and there will be more special Irish offerings at Coffee Talk, The Mulberry Café, Ruckle’s Pier, the Whitehouse Restaurant and Bob’s Lounge. Bob’s is also the place to try Clare Irish Red Beer made especially for the festival at the Mt. Pleasant Brewing Company.

You can enjoy special meals and help out various organizations during the festival. At St. Cecilia’s, a Fish Fry dinner is scheduled Friday evening. There will be hotdogs at St. John Lutheran Church; or you can get a Reuben sandwich at the Clare Eagles.

Saturday morning it will be the Cub Scout Pancake Breakfast at the Clare Methodist Church; the Soup Luncheon at St. John Lutheran Church; and Irish fare all afternoon at the Clare Moose Lodge and Clare Eagles Club.

To help out the brand new Clare County soup kitchen “The Stone Soup Project,” the Clare County Leadership Institute will host a soup, bread and dessert luncheon Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Clare Castle downtown. The food will be prepared by Mid Michigan Community College’s culinary students and the donations will fund the soup kitchen and provide hot meals for needy people in the area.

Once you are full, it is time for fun! Most activities are scheduled on Friday and Saturday and entertainment is a huge part of the festivities with music everywhere you go.

Following the Irish Recipe Contest, Thursday, the Gateway Community Band held a concert in the Clare High School Gym, another festival tradition.

Friday entertainment will include Arlyn Willett at 3 p.m. in the Doherty’s Leprechaun Lounge; Southbound from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Clare Moose Lodge; Night Shift in the Doherty Ballroom and Kevin Chamberlain in the Leprechaun Lounge beginning at 8 p.m. and at 8:30 p.m. The Delightfuls at MacGillycuddy Corner at the Doherty. Both Nightshift and The Delightfuls will perform again at the same times on Saturday evening.

Saturday entertainment will also include John Schimmelmann on piano at Coffee Talk from 9 a.m. to noon; live music in the Doherty Leprechaun Lounge at 11 a.m.; and the Northern Lights Irish Dancers at the Clare Castle right after the parade;

There will be something to please everyone on Saturday.

The White Pine Pipe and Drum Corp will perform at 2 p.m. at the Clare Eagles Club on Grant Avenue.

The Scottsville Clown Band has been a big part of the Irish Festival for as long as people can remember. They will be back, both in the parade and performing at the Clare Moose Lodge at 2 p.m. Saturday. Following the Clown Band it will be Southbound at the Moose Lodge.

From 2 to 6 p.m. Gabe will be at Bob’s Lounge; at 3 p.m. it will be Lou Matz & The Hell Catz at MacGillycuddy Corner in the Doherty Hotel; Finnegan at 3 p.m. in the Doherty Leprechaun Lounge; Karaoke starting at 4 p.m. at the Clare Eagle’s Club; Sound Productions beginning at 6 p.m. at Bob’s Lounge and Karaoke starting at 8 p.m. at the Clare Moose Lodge.

On Sunday morning, beginning at 1:30 a.m. an After Hours Breakfast will be featured at Bob’s Lounge and from 10 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday, the Whitehouse will serve biscuits and gravy.