NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Most die-hard Irish-at-heart know all about the huge celebrations with big parades in places such as New York, Chicago and Boston, but there are plenty of other festivals that celebrate the green each year in some surprising locales:
Emmetsburg, Iowa: When a small town nearly doubles its population for a festival, you know it has to be good. Approximately 7,000 people flood into the Iowa sister city of Dublin, Ireland, for this festival, which includes a pageant, talent show, fish fry, a half-relay, chainsaw art and of course, Irish stew. It runs March 10-17.
Oak Forest Fleadh, Oak Forest, Ill.: A Fleadh is simply Gaelic for “festival” (pronounced “flah”), and these festivals typically celebrate the music or culture. Oak Forest gets its green on with customer appreciation parties, a 5K race, open bike ride, family parade and a pub and restaurant open house March 9.
Shamrock, Texas: If a place named “Shamrock” missed out on throwing a party on St. Patrick’s Day, it would be a bit of bad luck. This tiny town of 2,000 swells to more than 10,000 people for this celebration, which includes a 5K run, a parade, dinner, dance and carnival. It runs March 14-17.
Springfield, Mo.: The big St. Patrick’s event in this southwest Missouri city is the parade, but this is the only festival we found that has an official Irish Pet Contest. Pets are dressed in their best green wear and are judged for originality, talent, stage presence and fun factor. The fun continues that evening at a pub. Hopefully, the pets won’t be celebrating by drinking green beer. It runs March 16.
Dublin, Ohio: This city boasts that it has an Irish attitude all year, and how could it not with the same moniker as one of Ireland’s most famous cities? The big attraction in town is the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, and this town also has many shops in the historic downtown area as well as Irish music and pubs in which to celebrate. March 16.
San Francisco, Calif.: This is by no means a small town, but it’s St. Patrick’s Day bash is still unexpected in a city better known for more quirky celebrations. This full-day event has something for just about everyone, with a street fair, Irish cultural events including music and entertainment and of course, pub crawls later in the evening. It runs March 16.
Fort Wayne, Ind.: The Get Green festival in Fort Wayne has one thing every grownup may have dreamed of as a child: A Lucky Charms eating contest. Other highlights include the 5Kilt race, strongman competition, river greening, a gold coin hunt and lots of crafts and food. It runs March 16.
Block Party, St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota may be better known for its Nordic heritage, but for a day in March, everyone becomes Irish. The two blocks west of 7th Street in downtown has seven bars and restaurants, including Irish bars Patrick McGovern’s and The Liffey. Burgers, Irish food, entertainment and drink keep people in the area all day. There are also Irish heritage centers offering special programs during the festival. It runs March 16.
Ocean City, Md.: If you’re on the East Coast and want to avoid the huge parades in the large cities, you can still celebrate being Irish in a big way. Ocean City has an impressive parade, but the festivities last most of the day with food, music and entertainment and activities for the entire family. It runs March 16.
Snake Festival, North Kansas City, Mo: Kansas City, Mo., is home to one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country, but across the river to the north of the city, the Northlanders show they know how to throw a more family-friendly party. The area is anticipating 100,000 to attend the daylong event, which includes carnival rides, a car show, children’s area with pony rides, petting zoo and live entertainment. It runs March 16.