When out-of-towners hear, “It's almost the biggest parade in the nation,” from a Scranton resident regarding the St. Patrick's Parade, they may scoff, but guys, we aren't kidding.
It's a parade that comes second only to Savannah, Ga., and is followed by New York City, as measured by participants per population of the city in which it's held, for cities with a population of over 50,000.
There are a total of over 12,000 participants in the actual parade and nearly 150,000 people that line the route. Now in its 52nd year, the event that celebrates Irish-American culture just keeps growing.
Though the parade itself doesn't begin until 11:45 a.m., a mass at St. Peter's Cathedral (315 Wyoming Ave.) at 10 a.m. and the Brian Kelly Memorial Run at 11 a.m. start off the day.
There is, of course, the drinking aspect of all this, but what some don't realize is that this day, as well as the time reserved for the Wilkes-Barre St. Patrick's Parade the following weekend, is also set aside to uphold traditions and to do some good in the community.
There are races and bashes whose proceeds go to cancer research among all the drunken debauchery, and we've got all of that covered for you.
So put on your drinking pants and fill the pockets with donations for not only this weekend, but the next – the St. Pat's festivities are spanning two Saturdays leading up to the actual holiday on Sunday, March 17, this time around, so you're going to want to be prepared.
-Sara Pokorny, Weekender Staff Writer
Don't bash the stache
What will be your weapon of choice come the day of the Scranton St. Patrick's parade?
While many reserve such an occasion for donning boatloads of green and consuming just as much booze, there are others who use the much-anticipated “holiday” for good (coupled with the festive hue and drinking, of course).
Enter the Gentlemen's League of Extraordinary Mustaches, a Scranton-based non-profit that is now in its sixth year of throwing the “Stache Bash,” with all proceeds going to organizations dedicated to cancer research. This year's beneficiary of the proceeds is the Lymphoma/Leukemia Society.
The party began as somewhat of a joke among friends, but, just like some of the whacky facial hair that can be seen on bash goers, the event has grown and grown.
“The very first year, there were 10, 15 people involved and we just thought it'd be hilarious to grow mustaches,” Melissa McGowan Synder, a member of the group who conjured up the event, explained.
They met at a bar for breakfast and gave out awards for some of the best facial hair for a laugh, but when McGowan's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer the following year, there was a more serious reason to make the party bigger and better.
It began at Jilly's in Scranton, but after bringing in close to 250 people last year, the Bash is now being held at the Clarion Hotel Ballroom (300 Meadow Ave.).
“We never imagined six years ago that it was going to be anything more than our group of ridiculous friends doing this. Now we have grandmas and grandpas that come and kids running around,” McGowan said.
“It has become a tradition for a lot of people. They have a family table at the Stache Bash in the morning, then go down to the parade for noon.”
It's $30 to get in ($15 for those not drinking), an entrance fee that provides breakfast, a full bar, and entertainment. And if an event dedicated to facial hair isn't cool enough, what's even better is the fact that a stellar stache could snag you a prize – whether you're a man or not.
“We include women, too, absolutely,” McGowan said. “We've had girls walk in with mustaches painted on or wearing little green ones you can buy. In fact, last year's 'Rookie of the Year' award went to a girl who made an awesome yarn mustache.”
A donation of the participants choosing is all that's needed in order to have his or her picture taken and put up on a board. This year, the public will pay $1 per vote to decide who wins in each category.
“Rookie of the Year” (reserved for newcomers) is just one of the many. There's also the “Nice Try” award for someone who attempted to grow some awesome hair but didn't quite nail it, a “Classic Stache” award for the more traditional looks, the “Miss Mustache” that's reserved for the ladies, and the big prize of “Most Extraordinary Mustache of the Year.”
Win or lose, it's all in fun, and it's all come as a total surprise to those who thought a bit of funky facial hair would be nothing but a fun time.
“It's a little grassroots thing that's just caught on,” McGowan noted, “and now we're doing it to raise money for great causes and people.”
Stache Bash: March 9, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Clarion Hotel Ballroom (300 Meadow Ave.). $30, $15 for non-drinkers.
-Sara Pokorny, Weekender Staff Writer
A new tradition
When Frank Pikul of Wilkes-Barre was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2010, he and his wife Erin didn't say much to anyone as he underwent treatment.
When the cancer came back in late 2011, Erin decided she needed an outlet and a way to help Frank, so she began to organize a walk among friends for the morning of the Wilkes-Barre St. Patrick's Parade.
“I said, 'Let's just walk around the square a couple times until they tell us to stop,'” she said. “It was kind of a joke. I didn't think anyone would come out.”
The 500 people who ran the race last year proved her wrong, as did the $20,000 raised for kidney cancer research.
“How do you even top that?” Erin said when spoke of planning Renal Race 2, but she decided she would try again, year after year.
“We want this to be the Parade Day tradition.”
The Renal Race 2 takes place at 9 a.m. on March 16, right before the Wilkes-Barre St. Patrick's Day Parade. There is both a 5k course for runners and a lighter mile for those who wish to walk.
Though the amount of money raised last year astounded those who organized the race, that's not what Pikul is focusing on this year. Instead, she's got her attention on the people who come out, as they are what made the first year so rewarding.
“At first, Frank didn't want to be the poster guy for kidney cancer around here, so telling his story was hard, but once we did the race and saw all these people come out, not just for him, but for others they were walking in honor of, I think we were able to grasp just what was going on,” she explained.
“All I want this year is the same amount of people, the same amount of excitement, and to hear other people's stories.”
This shouldn't be a problem, as the count for pre-registration is already over 200. Though that closed yesterday, people wishing to participate in the race can still sign up the day of, beginning at 7:30 a.m. at Rodano's (53 Public Square).
Both routes leave from Public Square and can be found at therenalrace.org.
To help kick off the event, there will be a “Happy Hour” from 5-8 p.m. on March 8 at Rodano's. Food and beer will be provided in those three hours for $20.
Renal Race 2: March 16, 9 a.m., registration at 7:30 a.m. at Rodano's (53 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre).
-Sara Pokorny, Weekender Staff Writer
Saint Patrick's Day comes once a year for most people, but for the Kilmaine Saints, it stays all year long. Fueled by whiskey and Guinness, the Celtic rockers spend their time writing songs about local history as well as old Irish and Scottish traditions.
The group got their start in 2009 playing pubs around Harrisburg and the surrounding areas with the goal of scoring complementary beer. They have since released two successful albums and have played shows and festivals in multiple states, spreading their music and earning a loyal fan base.
“It started as, 'Hey let's get a band together, and maybe we'll play somewhere for beer,'” admitted singer Brendan Power in a recent phone conversation with The Weekender.
The band consists of six accomplished musicians, many of which have been playing in the Celtic music scene for over a decade; a few of the members were even incorporated into the Lochiel Emerald Society Pipes and Drums.
Power, new to the whole Celtic rock scene, grew up listening to traditional Celtic music. Knowing that Celtic rock was quite a change from what he was used to, he had to step outside of his comfort zone when auditioning for the band.
“I was shaking like a leaf on a tree when I stood up for the audition. These guys have been playing music for quite some time. Everybody had been very accomplished musicians, and I felt out of place. I felt like, 'Uh, could I at least carry the equipment in for a while, and earn my keep a little bit?'” joked Power.
The Harrisburg rockers have seen much success outside of their hometown, playing in Maryland, New York, Connecticut, and Michigan, among other states. Although they are not currently touring, they still proudly hold the title of “weekend warriors,” as Power described. They play plenty of shows and Celtic festivals, including the Scranton Celtic Festival coming up in May at Sno Mountain (1000 Montage Mountain Road, Scranton).
The Saints will be playing outside Kildare's Irish Pub (119 Jefferson Ave, Scranton) on Parade Day from 4-7 p.m. The following day, they will be playing on a float in the Philadelphia Saint Patrick's Parade.
Along with scoring slots in major concerts, the Kilmaine Saints have received chart-topping spots for both of their albums: “The Good, The Plaid, & The Ugly” was listed on e-zine Shite'n'Onions' Top 10 list for 2010, while 2012's “Drunken Redemption” received an even more honorable mention, hitting No. 3 on the same site and No. 10 on paddyrock.com.
The Saints pride themselves on their Irish and Scottish roots. Power, an Irish native himself, was born in Charlestown, County Mayo, Ireland, and moved to the United States when he was just four years old. After not returning to his country for over 15 years, he talked about hopes of returning in the future with his children.
Located about an hour south of Charlestown is a small village called Kilmaine, which consists of no more than 200 people. The band's ex-accordion player had family from the village and thought the name would sound fitting as long as they added “Saints” on the end. Thus, The Kilmaine Saints were born.
Sharing the ever-growing genre with big names like the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, it was clear to the Saints that they needed to add a sense of originality if they were going to be recognized. Power, along with the rest of the band, has learned how to add his own unique style to their sound.
“It took me a little while to find out how I wanted to sing it. I didn't want it to sound like this one or that one. I had to find my sound. We actually did that as a band. I think we really concentrated on finding our own sound, which we've done a good job of,” he emphasized.
“Make your own sound. Don't be somebody else. You always have to have your own sound and be yourself. That is what people are going to listen to; that's what's going to make you stand out.”
The band writes about light subjects like whiskey and beer, as well as some more serious topics like Gettysburg and the Civil War. Never forgetting their roots, they make sure to pay tribute to their Irish and Scottish heritage in some of their songs.
With over four hours of material, the Saints can keep an audience going, playing everything from fast-paced rock songs to a capella. Having such a versatile set list gives them the ability to read a crowd and play what their fans are in the mood for.
“The biggest compliment that I can have as a singer is when you see people in the crowd singing your own songs back to you,” Power commented. “It is just amazing.”
The Kilmaine Saints work closely with an organization called The Claddagh Fund, formed by Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys. The Claddagh Fund donates to various underfunded organizations in the Philadelphia area, including charities for children, veterans, and drug and alcohol recovery programs. It has branches in the cities of Boston and Philadelphia, with intentions of expanding and helping people around the world.
“It's a great non-profit organization. It really gives back to the community, especially to underprivileged children,” Power said. “They really do a great job of reaching out to that.”
Kilmaine Saints: March 9, 4-7 p.m., Kildare's Irish Pub (119 Jefferson Ave, Scranton).
-Karyn Montigney, Weekender Intern
Don't rain on the parade
Parade Day can be fun, but if you're not the boozing type or simply want to avoid the crowds, there are plenty of other things to do in the area on Saturday, March 9. Here are just a few:
- Still feeling Irish? The Scranton Cultural Center (420 N. Washington Ave., Scranton) is holding a free party from 12-4 p.m. with live entertainment by Kilrush, a “Celtic fusion” band from Elmira, N.Y., that has performed at the East Durham Irish Festival, the Great American Irish Festival, the Celtic Fling, and many other Irish festivals in the Northeast. They will be joined by several performers from the parade continuing their respective acts. A cash bar and light fare will be available for purchase. Info: 888.669.8966, scrantonculturalcenter.org.
- Parade or not, there's never a bad day for a good concert. The Mauch Chuck Opera House (14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe) will be hosting Wishbone Ash, the British quartet from the 1970s who gained fame as pioneers of the twin lead guitar sound. The band starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $25. Another heavy progressive rock act, Queensryche, well-known for groundbreaking concept albums like “Operation: Mindcrime,” will be playing with Bang Tango at Penn's Peak (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30-35. Info: Mauch Chuck, 570.325.0249, mauchchunkoperahouse.com; Penn's Peak, 866.605.7325, pennspeak.com.
- The theater always provides a nice night out, and the Pines Dinner Theatre (448 North 17th St., Allentown) offers dinner and a show all in one place. This Saturday, it's the musical “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” – the story of four girlfriends asking that very question at a gathering before a wedding. Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $48.50 for dinner and the show and $25 for the show only. The Shawnee Playhouse (552 River Rd., Shawnee) is offering “Dancing at Lughnasa,” the story of five poor Irish sisters in the summer of 1936; the 1998 film adaptation starred Meryl Streep. The show starts at 8 p.m. and is $18 for adults and $15 for seniors over 55 and AAA members. Info: Pines Dinner Theatre, 610.433.2333. pinesdinnertheatre.com; Shawnee Playhouse, 570.421.5093, theshawneeplayhouse.com.
- Spring is almost here, so why not prepare for the nice, peaceful weather with a Basic Boating Course at Nescopeck State Park (1137 Honey Hole Rd., Drums) provided by the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.? Boaters will learn practical information to make informed decisions on the water. Students who successfully complete the course may apply for a Boating Safety Education Certificate for a $10 fee, necessary for all operators of personal watercraft. Pre-registration is required. Info: 570-406-4041, fishandboat.com.
- Who doesn't enjoy some homemade baked goods? The (Not Just A) Craft Fair, which features arts and crafts, a bake sale, raffles, and more, runs 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. at LaSalle Academy (625 Dundaff St., Dickson City). Admission is only $1. Info: 570.840.5915, [email protected]
- If all else fails, there's always the movies. “Oz the Great and Powerful,” Disney's prequel to “The Wizard of Oz” directed by Sam Raimi and starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz, opens this weekend along with “Dead Man Down,” a crime thriller with Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, and Noomi Rapace that was directed by Niels Arden Oplev, his first film since 2009's “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” New movies hanging around from the previous week include “21 and Over,” a comedy of drunken debauchery from the writers of “The Hangover,” and “X-Men” director Bryan Singer's “Jack the Giant Slayer,” a more family-friendly fantasy film based in fairy tales that stars Nicholas Hoult and Ewan McGregor. Info: Check local movie times.
-Rich Howells, Weekender Editor
Download the Weekender Parade Day App
Available in the Apple App Store and the Android Marketplace, The Weekender's St. Patrick's Parade App provides everything you need for a safe and fun holiday.
- A full listing of events at local bars
- An “around me” function that gives access to food and events listings as well as emergency services
- One-touch access to call a cab
- Links to social media pages of local hot spots
- The ability to upload pictures to the social media pages of your location as well as your own Facebook and Twitter
- Photo galleries
- A tip calculator
- A car finder
- A full list of drinks specials
- Access to discounts and exclusive offers
Bars in Scranton area
- Abbey Gale's Pub, 729 Oak St., 342-8182
- Alfredo's, 1000 S. Washington Ave., 969-1910
- Andy Gavin's, 1392 N. Washington Ave., 346-8864
- Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., 955-0192
- Bacwal's Tavern, 1001 Stafford Ave., 969-2690
- Beko, 414 Spruce St., 341-0205
- The Bog, 341 Adams Ave., 341-6761
- Cooper's Seafood House, 701 N. Washington Ave., 346-6883
- Diskin's Saloon, 2716 Birney Ave., 963-0770
- The Dugout, 401 S. Webster Ave., 342-4121
- The Glass Onion, 1018 Prescott Ave. 347-0199
- Good Fella's, 1210 Mulberry St., 961-5775
- Green Frog, 815 Mulberry St., 969-9989
- Haggerty's Pub & Eatery, 421 N. Main Ave., 344-9961
- The Hub Lounge at the Clarion, 300 Meadow Ave., 344-9811
- Hurricane Grill & Wings, 300 Lackawanna Ave., 561-0707
- The Irish Wolf Pub, 503 Linden St., 342-0401
- Jack's Draft House, 803 Prescott Ave., 344-7040
- Jilly's Restaurant, 524 Court St., 344-7846
- Jones Tavern, 1902 Lafayette St., 969-0606
- Joyce's Café, 2734 Birney Ave., 343-4041
- Kelly's Pub & Eatery, 1802 Cedar Ave., 346-9758
- The Keys, 244 Penn Ave.
- Kilcoyne's, 129 S. Main Ave., 969-4331
- Kildare's, 119 Jefferson Ave., 344-4030
- McMullen's Pub, 219 E. Market St., 346-2723
- Mert's Piano & Cocktail Bar, 302 Penn Ave., 969-9100
- Mickey Gannon's, 925 Sanderson Ave., 343-6234
- Minooka Pub, 2934 Birney Ave., 209-7172
- Morgan'z Pub & Eatery, 315 Green Ridge St., 344-8300
- Mulligan's, 519 Linden St., 346-8465
- The New Penny, 1827 North Main Ave.
- P.J.'s 1910 Pub, 100 Adams Ave., 343-3000
- Posh @ The Scranton Club, 404 N. Washington Ave., 397-0709
- Rocky's Lounge, 141 Jefferson Ave., 348-0351
- Sambuca Grille & Bar, 234 Penn Ave., 961-5205
- Thirst-T's Bar & Grill, 120 Lincoln St., Olyphant, 489-9901
- Trax at the Radisson, 700 Lackawanna Ave., 342-8300
- The V-Spot, 906 Providence Road, 963-7888
- Whiskey Dick's, 308 N. Washington Ave., 342-9824