Irish spirit: Dublin set to welcome 80,000 revelers for St. Patrick's Day celebration

Festival, parade, pancake breakfast, 5K walk/run among event highlights

It's nearly 5,000 miles -- or a roughly 12-hour flight -- between neighboring Dublin, California and its international namesake Dublin, Ireland.

But this weekend, the distance will feel like it has almost disappeared as the Tri-Valley city hearkens back to its roots with its 34th annual St. Patrick's Day celebration, which kicks off with the Dublin Sister City Association's annual Green and White Gala on Friday evening.

Next comes a two-day festival with free admission and parking, a pancake breakfast, St. Patrick's Day parade, and the 5K Shamrock Fun Run and Walk. There will also be surprises at this year's event to mark the city of Dublin's 35th birthday.

"It's great we continue to celebrate the heritage of the founding pioneers that created the Dublin community after so many years," Mayor David Haubert said in a recent interview.

"We get around 80,000 visitors that come in," he added. "That's an economic boost as well as a pride boost to put on such a great event."

Revelers will kick off the festivities with dinner and dancing at Friday night's Green and White Gala at the Dublin Senior Center. (Tickets are no longer available.)

The celebration gets in full swing Saturday, as the morning starts at 7 a.m. with the traditional green pancake breakfast with Alameda County firefighters at the fire station on Donohue Drive. For $5 per person at the door, you'll get eggs, pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee. All proceeds benefit the Alameda County Firefighters Association, Local 55 Charity Fund, which supports local nonprofit and community-based organizations.

From there, head on over to Amador Plaza Road where the annual St. Patrick's Day parade gets underway at 9:30 a.m. Presented by the Dublin Lions Club, it features more than 80 entries, including marching bands, floats, Irish bagpipes and equestrian riders. The grand marshal of the parade this year is U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, who started his political career serving on Dublin's City Council.

Parade-goers are encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets to watch from along the parade route, which ends near the Dublin Senior Center on Amador Valley Boulevard.

The Dublin Civic Center is home to the festival happening from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Attendees can take in entertainment at two stages featuring a variety of Celtic music, from Celtic rock and traditional Irish pub music to bagpipes. The Celtic folk-rock band Tempest will perform on the main stage both days. Also appearing on the main stage will be several traditional Irish folk bands, including Culann's Hounds and One-Eyed Reilly.

On the pub stage will be Pog Mo Thoin, The Jason Pollack Irish Band and Trio of One.

The Irish dance stage will showcase the McGrath Irish Dancers on Saturday and the McBride School of Irish Dance on Sunday. Bagpiper Jeff Campbell will perform throughout the festival grounds as well.

For those looking to shop, the Irish Marketplace will have vendors specializing in Celtic artwork, Irish tartans, handmade pewter goblets and steins, Irish whiskey cakes and more.

And families can take their kids to the carnival, which will offer rides and attractions for all ages Saturday and Sunday. The carnival is open later on Saturday, until 7 p.m.

It wouldn't be a proper festival without the food, and there will be options for anyone's appetite. Visitors can step inside the Irish Tea Cottage for lively music along with shortbread, scones and authentic Irish tea served in china cups.

The Celtic Food Court, meanwhile features traditional Irish favorites like bangers and mash, fish and chips, and corned beef and cabbage. Irish-inspired specialties include corned beef sliders with cheddar and spicy slaw, Irish creme brulee and green shamrock-shaped funnel cakes. Traditional festival foods and international options will also be available.

And there will, of course, be Irish beer, with Guinness, Harp and Smithwicks on tap.

"We sometimes measure success by the amount of kegs of Irish beer we sell," Haubert joked. "When it's rainy and yucky, the sales go way down, but when it's sunny, the beer sales go way up and that's considered a great time."

New to the festival this year will be the San Francisco Youth Gaelic Athletic Association, which will showcase Gaelic football and hurling in two demonstrations Sunday afternoon. They will also have a booth at the festival both days for those interested in learning more about the sports.

Paddy Merrigan, a spokesman for the association, says its vision is to expand Irish games in the Bay Area.

Gaelic football and hurling have been around for centuries and have ties to other sports. Gaelic football, Merrigan says, is a mixture of soccer and rugby, while hurling is "very much like lacrosse, with a lot of physical contact."

"You use a wooden stick called a hurley stick and a small ball with a similar size to a baseball called a sliotar," Merrigan said. "And there are goal posts, with two uprights and a crossbar."

Merrigan, a San Francisco resident, said the association is looking forward to being a part of Dublin's St. Patrick's Day celebration this year.

"It's a great opportunity for our association to promote the games, and from my perspective it's a great opportunity to promote our culture as well," he said.

As a community originally founded by Irish settlers over 150 years ago, Haubert says the city strives to keep its St. Patrick's Day celebration authentic.

"We have Irish dancing, Irish bands play at the festival and bagpipes in the parade," he said. "It's not just about the green beer and leprechauns -- it has some deeper meaning that we retain here in Dublin."

That's underscored with the annual presence of a delegation from Bray, Ireland -- Dublin's sister city -- over the weekend.

"We honor them at the gala," Haubert said. "It's always a great thing to celebrate the ties we have internationally with our friends from Bray."

The celebration wraps up Sunday with the final day of the festival. The city's 19th annual Shamrock 5K Fun Run and Walk also takes place Sunday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. near the Civic Center. Register online for the run at or at the event.

For more information about the festivities, including transportation options and entertainment lineups, visit or call 556-4500.

Schedule of events

Friday: * Green and White Gala, Dublin Senior Center: 6 p.m. Tickets no longer available

Saturday: * Alameda County Firefighters' Pancake Breakfast, Fire Station #16 on Donohue Drive: 7 a.m. Tickets sold at the door for $5/person.

* St. Patrick's Day Parade, starting from Amador Plaza Road and continuing to Dublin Boulevard to Village Parkway to Amador Valley Boulevard and ending near the Dublin Senior Center: 9:30 a.m.

* St. Patrick's Day Festival, Dublin Civic Center: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission and parking.


* 19th annual Shamrock 5K Fun Run and Walk, begins and ends on Dublin Boulevard near the Civic Center: 8:30 a.m. Registration costs $27/person.

* St. Patrick's Day Festival, Dublin Civic Center: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission and parking.

All festivities will be held rain or shine.


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