St. Patrick’s Day in Detroit: Celebrating Love, Loyalty, and Friendship

March 11, 2015 | Detroit
Pewabic Tile
Pewabic Claddagh Tile – image courtesy of Pewabic


It’s pretty well accepted that on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish.

And, aside from the fact that ‘The D’ is by far the best place to celebrate the holiday, this inclusive aspect of the holiday speaks to the ‘Spirit’ of Detroit…whether you Live, Work, or just Play here, the city makes everyone feel as if they are a part of it!

Okay. And we’re always down for a celebration!

So, if you’re not sure where to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, head to Detroit!

The holiday actually celebrates the life and efforts of St. Patrick, whose evangelizing worked to transform Ireland—in his faith, he reached out to everyone to essentially convert them into being believers. And, if you spend this weekend and the holiday (or any time at all, really!) in Detroit—you too will soon be a believer… in the city.

St. Patrick’s parents were Roman citizens, and everyone knows the 12th-century French proverb that that city ‘wasn’t built in a day’: just like our city, which has a long history, a hardworking and creative present (Romans were incredible engineers in infrastructure, artists in architecture, and advancers in science—known as natural philosophy), and a future that promises to continue to be historically and socially significant.

I think it is also interesting that St. Patrick is ‘known’ for driving the snakes out of Ireland. But only because there is no evidence that there were actually ever snakes in Ireland. This, the incorrect idea that dangerous serpents resided there, also speaks to the misconceptions that plague Detroit. The truth is that while it isn’t perfect, the reality of the city is much different than the rumors that pervade some people’s perception of it!

There is an Irish toast for St. Patrick’s Day, that goes along the lines of “May the Roof Above Us Never Fall In, and May We Friends Beneath it Never Fall Out.” This too speaks to the ‘Spirit’ of Detroit. There is an incredible renaissance happening Downtown—from the buildings that being restored (I happen to reside in one, The Lofts of Merchants Row, that was restored a decade ago by believers in the city) to the continuing work of organizations like Bedrock, Detroit Experience Factory, and Bamboo Detroit. And the same ‘Spirit’ that encourages inclusivity, ensures that whether you are a longtime resident like myself or a tourist in town for a quick visit, you will find Friends (and cement connections) that you ‘never fall out with’ everywhere you turn!

But this is a blog about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Detroit! So, let me begin (here in the middle), with a recommendation that you adorn yourself in a Down With Detroit tee-shirt! You’ll be sporting ‘The Green’ (symbolic of the shamrock, a sign of luck and possibly arising from the custom known as “drowning the shamrock”—which was worn on a lapel or hat and then used as a garnish for the last drink of the evening!) and which is also appropriate to a city that has and continues to develop incredible green spaces from the Detroit Riverfront, the Detroit Greenway, and the many parks—like Campus Martius—which are all pretty much right outside my front door!

You can kick-off the celebrations by kicking it up at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Detroit, on Sunday, March 15th. In its 57th year, the Parade steps off at noon, as it has been since 1959, and follows along Michigan Avenue through Corktown—which got its name from the Irish residents, most of whom were from County Cork.  Corktown is Detroit’s oldest surviving neighborhood, making it an even more appropriate place to celebrate a holiday that was first officially recognized in the 17th century!

And whether you pound the pavement yourself or cheer on the runners, get your heart pounding at the Corktown Races—the 5k and the 1-mile Dublin Dash—which stay mostly on the parade route and are sponsored by Strategic Staffing Solutions.

I suggest sprinters and spectators alike fuel up for the big day with Corned Beef Hash at The Hudson Café beforehand. (And, if you’re a resident of one of the lofts in my building, you can get your Corned Beef delivered to your door, with ‘Room Service’ from the Hudson!)

You can also celebrate Sunday with a bagel and a beer courtesy of Hatch Detroit & the Detroit Institute of Bagels from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. at ‘Bagels & Beer.’ (I am personally hoping they are serving up the #10 Sy Ginsberg Corned Beef Reuben with Swiss cheese, Sauerkraut, Russian Dressing—St. Patty’s Day and Sauerkraut…it really cannot get better than that!)

Stay ‘on route’ (whether you celebrate on Sunday or Tuesday) by getting a second wind at McShane’s Pub & Whiskey Bar, with a traditional Irish favorite, Shepherd’s Pie, or their Harp Fish and Chips—Hand-Dipped Atlantic Cod in their Harp and Malt Beer Batter, served with Horseradish Tartar, Signature Sea Salt and Thyme Steak Fries, Irish Mustard Slaw, and Corn Bread!

Or, go a small distance off-course and earn a medal for crossing the Finish Line at the Old Shillelagh’s Weekend Blast: hit the Starting Blocks on Friday at 11 a.m. with their Irish lunch features and live entertainment by Billy Dillon; cruise through Saturday with their ‘St. Practice Day’ celebration (with live entertainment from Blackmist starting at 1 p.m.); get a lift on one of their FREE shuttles to or from the Parade on Sunday; and ‘chill’ in one of their two heated tents on Tuesday, when the doors open at 7 a.m. and they’ll have live entertainment by Blackmist and Stone Clover! The Old Shillelagh was opened in 1975, by a retired Detroit police officer—John Brady—who was raised in Dublin. The second floor (required due to its popularity), was opened on Parade Sunday just one year later.

You can make your celebration of St. Patrick’s Day (or any day!) in Detroit majestic, by heading to Grand Trunk Pub and having ‘The Majestic,’ a sandwich piled high with locally-sourced Wigley’s Corned Beef, Turkey Breast, Cheddar Cheese, 1000 Russians Dressing on Avalon International Breads ‘313 Onion-Poppy Seed Roll’ and served with Better Made Potato Chips. Be sure to wash that down with a bottle of Magners Irish Cider (known as Bulmers in Ireland where it is produced in County Tipperary)!

And, just like ‘everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,’ you can make every day a celebration of inclusivity and our city—and your belief in its future through having a (literal) piece of its historic past—by taking home a symbol of Detroit’s interconnectivity: not only are Pewabic tiles beautiful, but they also interlock.

The “symbolism and design” of the Pewabic Claddagh tile is inspired by imagery “borne in the town of Claddagh, Ireland during the 17th century. The imagery in a Claddagh ring represents love, loyalty, and friendship. The heart is for love. The crown represents loyalty. And the hands are for friendship.”

Display this symbol of your connection to the city you celebrate and the connection you have to people who share your belief—that this city was not and will not be built in a day; but it has been, is, and will be the place in which new innovations and (perhaps even more importantly) new friendships will be made. The sort of friends who never fall out, but who always stand by your side. Whether it’s to celebrate a holiday or simply celebrate the city. Celebrate Love, Loyalty, and Friendship…and those who Live, Work, and Play here.

Which, really, every day of the year, is all of us.

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