IT’S MORE THAN BEER : Music, Culture and All Things Irish Are the Focus of St. Paddy’s Celebrations

<i> Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition. </i>

One of Orange County’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations has built a following even while doing without one element most associated with American celebrations of the day: alcohol.

No beer, with or without green food coloring, will be served when the very Irish Brothers of St. Patrick mark their namesake holiday a wee bit early, with a daylong “Family Festival” Sunday at their home in Midway City.

“Most people emphasize alcohol when they celebrate St. Patrick’s,” said Brother Edwin Guidera, a member of the novitiate. The order’s festival has drawn about 6,000 people in each of its first two years. People, Guidera said, “are very happy to have some place where they can bring the kids.”

Billed as a “celebration of Irish culture,” Sunday’s festival will begin with an open-air mass in Gaelic, the little-spoken but still official language of the Irish Republic. In the United States, Gaelic masses are given “only on very rare occasions,” Guidera said.


The rest of the day will feature music from a Los Angeles-based Irish show band, the Des Regan Band, along with traditional Irish dancing and other entertainment. There will also be demonstrations of such sports as Irish football, hurling and camogie. Hurling is an Irish game resembling field hockey; camogie is the female version of the game.

This year, an exhibition of Irish show dogs will be added to the festivities.

Food booths will offer samplings of what passes for Irish cuisine: Irish stew and bread, corned beef sandwiches, and corned beef and cabbage dinners. Hamburgers and hot dogs will also be sold.

The Brothers of St. Patrick order was established in Midway City in the late 1940s; proceeds from Sunday’s event will go toward a retirement fund for the brothers.


The St. Patrick’s Family Festival takes place Sunday, March 15, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Brothers of St. Patrick, 7820 Bolsa Ave., Midway City. Parking on the grounds is limited, so shuttle service will be offered from Westminster Mall. From the San Diego (405) Freeway, go west on Bolsa Avenue. Meet at the Home Savings at the northwest corner of Bolsa and Golden West Street. Admission is $5 for adults, $2.50 for seniors. Free for children under 16. (714) 897-8181.

Elsewhere, Jim McCann, former member of seminal Irish folk singing group the Dubliners, will headline a St. Patrick’s Day celebration Tuesday at Old World Village in Huntington Beach.

Also on the bill are the Young Dubliners, a Los Angeles band that has drawn comparisons to such Irish-tinged folk-pop groups as the Pogues and the Waterboys; other local groups include Gael Force Winds and the Fenians.

The daylong event will include exhibitions of Irish dancing and pipes and an Irish marketplace with foods, exhibits and Irish imports.


Promoter Don Brady organized a “battle of the Irish bands” at Old World earlier this month, also featuring the Young Dubliners. While there are several St. Patrick’s celebrations in Southern California, Brady decided to emphasize music in the Old World festival.

McCann will perform two sets, at 6 and 9 p.m. The Young Dubliners will play at 7 and 10:30 p.m. Uileann piper Brian Walsh will perform at 9 p.m.

Gael Force Winds will play from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the Fenians will perform three sets between 2 and 6 p.m. Traditional Irish dancers will take the stage at 4 p.m.

St. Patrick’s Day Fleadh is on Tuesday, March 17, from 11 a.m. to midnight at Old World Village, Festival Hall, 7561 Center Ave., Huntington Beach. From the San Diego Freeway, take Beach Boulevard south and make an immediate right on Center Avenue. Admission is $12 before 5 p.m.; $15 after. Ticket purchase allows unlimited access, day and evening. (714) 550-4746.


Other St. Paddy’s events include:

* Mission Viejo’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. The two-hour procession steps off at noon on Saturday, March 14, beginning on Olympiad Boulevard and continuing on to Alicia Parkway. Information: (714) 830-7066.

* A “Salute to Ireland,” featuring Irish music, dance, poetry and song, on Saturday, March 14, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Peter’s Landing, 16400 Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach. The event is sponsored by the nonprofit group Irish Fine Arts of Orange County. Admission: $25, including dinner. Information: (714) 840-1833.

* “Honeymoon in Galway,” a comedy about a young woman’s first trip to Ireland as a reluctant visitor on her brother’s disastrous honeymoon, will be performed by Mary Anne McGarry of South Coast Repertory on Sunday, March 15, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at Engman International Gallery, 326 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach. Admission: $12. Information: (714) 497-7135.