This past Saturday the Boardwalk was a mixed bag of courageous and festive souls, each braving the freezing cold temps while watching the emerald-hued glory of Atlantic City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. While the weather may have been frigid, the spirit of this holiday remained as infectious as the flu many of us will likely catch from standing outside all those hours without a hat on. Note to self — sometimes mom’s advice should be taken more seriously.
But potential illness aside, there is something about St. Patrick’s Day that just makes people happy. Yeah, we know for some it’s strictly about the booze, but there is more to it than that. This is a holiday that people could easily ignore (Columbus Day anyone?), but instead, year after year folks in South Jersey and elsewhere stand decked from head to toe in kelly green, cheering and celebrating an Irish heritage that many of them do not even have. Of all the holidays to stick, you have to admit this is an unusual one.
The parade in A.C. may have landed on a chilly day, but the vibe was as warm as possible. And though it was nearly a full week ahead of the actual St. Paddy’s Day, most seemed not to notice or care, as they cheered floats from local favorites like Vagabond and Bally’s, marching drum corps, firemen, police and, of course, a waving, wool-sweatered Mayor Don Guardian front and center leading the charge.
For those who wanted a break from the temps, the boardwalk provided many an option. Inside Chickie’s and Pete’s at Tropicana Atlantic City was a packed house at the boardwalk level bar, all watching the parade through the windows, with the added benefit of a soundtrack provided by the Irish band Galway Guild, who played everything from traditional Irish tunes to more modern hits by bands like Mumford and Sons and REM.
“Having this table, and a band playing — it makes it tough to leave,” says Carol Deysher of Mays Landing. “It’s like the best of both worlds. We get to watch the parade and stay warm!”
Indeed, the warmth of being indoors may have been tempting for some, but others refused to let Mother Nature chase them inside.
“It’s just a great day — we come down every year just for the parade. This year there are 16 of us in our group. Cold or no cold, we wouldn’t miss it,” says Dr. William E. Sheerin, 68, of Scarsdale, NY.
While he and his family have been coming down to the parade for years, one particular visit always stands out for Sheerin.
“Back in the early ’90s we ran into Phil Collins outside Trump Plaza. He was just standing with everyone else having a great time at the parade! It was warm that day though … ‘no jacket required!’”
For Sheerin and many other revelers like him, the parade is just the start of a fun-filled day.
“After this, we’ll probably head into Trop for a bit, play a few rounds of roulette before we head down to the Irish Pub. It’s easier than dealing with the crowds in New York.”
Of course, that same Irish Pub that he speaks of is not nearly done celebrating. And we don’t just mean because St. Paddy’s Day hasn’t officially arrived yet either. This year, The Irish Pub will once again celebrate “Bag Day.” For those who are not aware, Bag Day is a pseudo holiday that takes place March 18 at The Irish Pub each year. Patrons who attend must wear a bag of some sort on (or over) their heads in order to be served, and the costumes actually tend to get even more elaborate than that. The holiday was originally created nearly 30 years ago so that the folks who worked at the bars and casinos on St. Patrick’s Day could have a day of their own to party and have fun. The story goes that a customer entered the bar the day after St. Patrick’s Day, looking for her own version of the party that had ended the day before. She threw a bag over her head and declared it to be “Bag Day.” The tradition has remained — and grown drastically — ever since.
If you are looking to head down to The Irish Pub to experience the Bag Day festivities, one should be aware that no bag=no booze, so you may as well join in the fun and bust out the most elaborate bag you can get your hands on. The day begins early, generally around 7 a.m. with things winding down by dinner time, when most attendees are half “in the bag” themselves.