By Pat Maurer
The biggest festival of the year, the Irish Festival, begins next Wednesday in Clare.
The 38th annual event is scheduled March 13th through the 17th this year with music entertainment, special events, raffles, contests, great food and, of course authentic Irish cuisine all over town.
The fun actually began last month when the Irish Festival Best Frame Doubles began at Gateway Lanes. The event ends Sunday with the “Last squad” at 8 p.m. on St. Paddy’s own day, March 17! Last year’s Best Frame Doubles winners went home with prizes totaling $1,800.
The Lanes are also hosting the 22nd annual Karaoke Star Search Contest, which began February 22, with the finals on March 15 and 16. Gateway Lanes really gets in the “Irish” spirit with Cosmic Rock and Glow Bowl and Blue Pin Bowling plus Karaoke and dancing on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16 beginning at 8 p.m.
The special events will be going on Wednesday through Saturday beginning with the Business Window Decorating judging from 9 to 5 on Wednesday and the Firstbank sponsored Business After Hours from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Doherty Hotel. Following the Business After Hours will be the Big Brothers Big Sisters Art and Silent Auction at 7 p.m., which raises much needed funds for the organization.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, The Kathy Rynearson Memorial Food Drive will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at Witbeck’s Family Foods with the food donated during the drive to go to the Mid Michigan Community Action Agency for distribution to needy families.
Also on Thursday, the Irish Recipe Contest is set at 5:30 p.m. in the Clare High School Cafeteria; and the Gateway Community Band Concert, “A Dance Tour to Ireland” in the Clare High School Gym beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Friday the annual Children’s Kickoff Carnival will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Clare Primary School.
Saturday is the festival’s biggest day for events beginning first thing with a Leprechaun contest at Witbeck’s at 8:45 a.m.; the beginning of the Irish Festival 5K/10K/2 Mile Walk Road Race at 9 a.m. right behind the Doherty; the annual Irish Festival Craft Show and Marketplace from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Clare Primary School; the 10:30 a.m. Irish Festival Bed Race down McEwan; the Irish Festival Kids Fun Run at 10:45 a.m. on Pine Street behind the Doherty Hotel; and the annual Irish Festival Parade featuring the Scottville Clown Band at noon to wind up the morning hours. Line up for the parade begins at 10 a.m.
The Clare Congregational Church will be hosting Celtic Christian Spirituality every Saturday through March 23 from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
Saturday afternoon it will be Cupcake Decorating at 2 p.m. at JT Bakers; the Irish Rover Contest at 3 p.m. by the Whitehouse Restaurant; a DJ and Karaoke at 3:30 p.m. at the Clare Eagles; and the drawing for Irish Trip Raffle and the St Patrick’s Day Cash Raffle, both at 8 p.m. at the Doherty Hotel.
The Irish Trip Raffle prize is a six night trip for two to Ireland or a $3,000 cash prize. Only 100 tickets (at $100 each) will be sold. The St. Patrick’s Day Cash Raffle prizes will include $1,500 for the top winner, $200 for second prize and $100 as 3rd place. Tickets are $5 each.
If Irish cuisine – Rubens, corned beef and cabbage and boiled dinner — are your downfall, Clare will be definitely be the place to go next weekend.
Irish fare will be available all weekend long. Stop at Clare Big Boy for Rubens where on Sunday customers will have a chance to win one Joe Johnston’s shotguns during Joe Johnston Day.
Stop at the Clare Eagles for corned beef and Ruben sandwiches and a Saturday Corned Beef Dinner; at the Clare Moose Lodge on Friday and Saturday for Rubens, corned beef and boiled dinner (Saturday); at the Doherty Hotel for corned beef sandwiches, an Irish Dinner Buffet Friday and Saturday, an Irish luncheon buffet on Saturday or a Sunday Brunch with a full and fantastic Irish menu; at the Herrick House for Irish specials both Friday and Saturday; or at the Whitehouse Restaurant for “Whitehouse Rubens” and boiled dinner.
Clare’s own Cops and Doughnuts will feature Smokin’ Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Misdemeanor Wieners and Undercover Coneys street-side on Saturday and, if supplies last, possibly Sunday.
The Clare Castle will host a Senior Services Fundraiser on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with hot dogs, Sloppy Joes, potato salad and more with the proceeds to benefit the home delivered meal program.
The Clare United Methodist Church will host the Cub Scouts All You Can Eat Pancake Breakfast Saturday beginning at 7 a.m. and a Soup Luncheon featuring Ruben Soup and Mulligan Stew on Sunday for donations beginning at 12:30 p.m.
St. Cecilia’s Fish Fry Dinner will be open from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday; St John Lutheran Church will be serving hot dogs on Friday evening and hot Irish soups and hot dogs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
If you are still hungry after all that, you can stop over in “Vender Park” in the parking lot by the Clare City Park for more goodies.
If entertainment is your favorite thing, there are plenty of “show stoppers” on Friday and Saturday in Clare.
The Doherty Hotel’s lineup on Friday includes Arlyn Willett at 3 p.m. in the Leprechaun Lounge; Kevin Chamberlain at 8 p.m. there; Night Shift beginning at 8 p.m. in the Ballroom; and Mike Ridley at 8:30 p.m. in MacGillicuddy Corner.
The Doherty’s Saturday entertainment lineup includes Kevin Chamberlain at 11 a.m. and again at 8 p.m. in the Leprechaun Lounge; Jupiter Thunderbird at 2 p.m. in the Ballroom; Arlyn Willett at 3 p.m. in the Leprechaun Lounge; Night Shift at 8 p.m. in the Ballroom and Joe Blues at 8:30 p.m. in MacGillicuddy corner.
More Saturday fare includes the White Pine Pipes and Drums, who will be strolling around downtown Clare at 11 a.m.; the Clare High School State Productions students who will present “Princess Who” at 2 p.m. in the Clare Middle School auditorium; Joel Tacey’s Family Magic Show, which is set for 2 p.m. and again at 3 p.m. at the Ideal Theatre and the White Pine Pipe Band playing at the Clare Eagles at 2 p.m.; while the Clare Moose Lodge will feature the Scottville Clown Band at 2 p.m. followed by Southbound and Karaoke.
Safe, free transportation is available for those celebrating on Irish Festival Saturday (March 16). Stops include all the hotels, bars, the Clare Eagles, Clare Moose Lodge and any other in-town destinations for a donation to the driver. Call Don at 989-400-3115.