By ROB W. ANDERSON
This Sunday will mark the first time in just over a decade that the religious holiday of St. Patrick’s Day will truly be a day of reverence.
St. Patrick’s Day is observed March 17, and this year, revelers may wear green to church on Sunday to denote the annual celebration. Those wishing to pay tribute to the Irish may also don the traditional color Saturday or Monday to mark the annual event when green eggs and ham or green beer may be consumed as a festive token.
Local pawn shop owner Tony Boyle is known as the “Tahlequah leprechaun” for his presence on St. Patrick’s Day, giving away candy and toy trinkets. He believes the day should be observed with a smile.
“We have a lot of people who hang around looking for things to be hurtful or negative about, and St. Patrick’s Day is just a time to have fun,” he said. “We need a day – not just the Irish people, but everybody – that they can frolic and have fun, with foolishness.”
The Irish have been celebrating this day for over 1,000 years. Boyle has dressed in full leprechaun regalia for over 20 years. He even traveled to Ireland recently to visit the green countryside also known as the Emerald Isle.
“My wife and I went to Ireland with a tour group from Tahlequah. We spent 14 days and went completely around the island. It was the first time I’ve been there,” he said. “The people were just lovely. There’s just no other way to describe it. “
Boyle said the tour group visited several sites and landmark features, including stops at the Guinness brewery and Jameson and Bushmills distilleries.
“There are lots and lots and lots of pubs. Here, people go to the pub to get drunk. There, you go to spend the evening,” he said. “They had what they called ‘pub grub,’ and it was good.”
St. Patrick’s Day is actually a religious feast day, as well as the anniversary of St. Patrick, who is the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland. Since the day arrives during the Christian season of Lent, Irish people traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon as the prohibition of meat is waived. People are allowed to dance, drink and feast on traditional fare of Irish bacon and cabbage.
“My father was Irish, and we always ate corned beef and cabbage and boiled potatoes,” said Boyle.
Folks interested in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday can enjoy events taking place at Brewdog’s, Tahlequah Elks Lodge or The Branch. Green beer will be on tap at Brewdog’s, while the Poteau, Okla., band Chicken Pot Pie will be on hand for the live entertainment, said Brewdog’s bartender Aaron Palmer.
“[Per their website] Chicken Pot Pie [is] a zesty splash of guitar slinging rock and roll with a deep rooted upbringing from Texas country,” he said. “Fans love and recognize [their] covers ranging from Adele and Green Day to Waylon Jennings.”
Elks Lodge event coordinator Connie Parnell said visitors who come out to that event will enjoy festive decorations and drink specials.
“We’re going to do it Saturday night because after midnight, it will be St. Patrick’s Day,” she said. “The band will be Exit 412. They’re a country-and-western band from Pryor.”
Fans of the popular Irish dry stout beverage that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness can share a toast of the dark brew while enjoying the traditional sounds of Cairde Na Gael, said local singer-songwriter and music coordinator Joe Mack.
“They’re a five-piece out of Tulsa and perform traditional Celtic and Irish numbers. I do think the official Guinness toast occurred last month, but we’ll surely toast to Guinness again and again,” Mack said. “Considering our musical offering, and pairing them with our Irish food and drink specials for the evening, The Branch is essentially the only place in Cherokee County to go have a full-on traditional celebration for St. Patrick’s Day.”
Dancers from the McCafferty School of Irish Dance will be performing three shows this week, including a school-only performance today at Greenwood Elementary and two weekend shows at Grace Living Center and Cherokee County Nursing Home.
For more information on Brewdog’s, search “Brewdog’s Tahlequah OK” on Facebook, while information for the Tahlequah Elks Lodge can be obtained by calling (918) 931-0172 or by searching “Tahlequah Elks Lodge” on Facebook. For information on The Branch, call (918) 456-1500.