This weekend, everyone is Irish | March 16, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - March 16, 2012

This weekend, everyone is Irish

Don the green and join the fun at the St. Patrick's Day Festival

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Enjoy an Irish jig this weekend.

Dublin is going green as the Tri-Valley gathers to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a pancake breakfast Saturday, a parade, a festival that lasts all day, both days, and the Shamrock Fun Run.

"I'm 100% Italian but I'm 100% Irish that weekend," said Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti.

Firefighters start serving their famous green pancakes at 7 a.m. at Station No. 16, on the corner of Donohue Drive and Amador Valley Boulevard. No reservations are needed, just $5 to cover the cost of the breakfast, which will last until 10 a.m.

The Dublin Lions Club Parade begins at 9:30 a.m., with staging on Amador Plaza Road near Safeway, and heads south, turning left to go under the freeway and looping around.

"The Lions Club (which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year) started the parade in 1983, the year after the city became a city," recalled Bill Burnham, who ran the first parade and has been its director every year since. "The mayor at the time, Pete Snyder, was a Lions Club member. He suggested, now that we're a city we should be put on the map with something. He suggested a parade."

Burnham and fellow Lion Scott Thompson rounded up a couple dozen entries with about 250 people and staged the parade from the parking lot at Dublin High School.

"After two to three years we outgrew the parking lot and now we're downtown," Burnham said. "We have to max it out at 80 entries. We have floats and horses. You name it, we have it."

He said he tried using committees to organize the parade and coordinate with the city in the early years but for the last 25 or so has found it easier to do the planning by himself.

"Then every Lions Club member shows up Saturday morning to help out," he said. "We blow up balloons, pass out beads, direct traffic, do just about everything."

Bands come from Dublin schools, and this year there will be two new bagpipe units, Burnham said.

"Last year we had 2,600 people in the parade," he noted. "And as far as watching, it was about close to 10,000."

The best place to view the parade, he said, is on or near the bleachers at the corner of Amador Valley Boulevard and Village Parkway, where the announcers are located, along with cameras from Tri-Valley Community TV, which airs the festivities later.

"Get there early," Burnham advised.

Seating in the bleachers is first come, first served.

"We try to discourage saving places," he said.

The parade starts off with a banner reading "Dublin Lions Club." School groups are featured, as well as their bands, and this year the parade's grand marshal will be Danielle Green, 8, whose birthday falls on St. Patrick's Day. She will be marching with her fellow students from Fallon Elementary School.

A few characters in costume walk the parade route, such as a guy dressed up like a hotdog in a bun to advertise a local fast food eatery.

"The kids enjoy that sort of thing," Burnham said.

Mayor Sbranti, who grew up in Dublin, said that being in the parade is like a rite of passage for residents, as it features Little League teams, Scouts and other community groups.

"I was in it a couple of times, growing up," he recalled.

Now he parades down the route as mayor, and when he is finished he will go to the bleachers and co-announce the entries with former Mayor Janet Lockhart.

"I enjoy doing the parade," Sbranti said. "The parade, as big as it is, could even be bigger but we chose to keep it more modest in size. A lot of outside vendors talk about coming in and trying to make it like Macys' Thanksgiving Day parade, with big outside floats and vendors. But we like the parade to have a local hometown feel."

Burnham said the 80 parade slots were filled several weeks ago. The Lions Club charges $50 for nonprofit groups and $75 for commercial entries.

"We give away balloons and beads, and there's all the signage," he explained. "It got pretty costly."

Burnham has kept his sense of humor as he figures out the logistics of the parade each year. For instance, the marching order. He organizes entries into two parts -- front and back -- and then alternates each year.

"But some complain, 'Why can't I be in front?'" he said. "The same people complain every year."

E Clampus Vitus, the men's club devoted to California history and drinking, used to enter its "precision drill team," he reported.

"They pulled a wagon with beer and would drink it," he recalled. "Their 'drill team' was a log they carried and they'd stop and drill holes in the log.

"The Police Department didn't say too much but half a dozen women complained."

Burnham expressed their concerns to E Clampus Vitus.

"They pretty much told me in no uncertain terms that if they're not allowed to do that, they'll not be back," he remembered.

People also complained a few years later when Miller Lite had a 40-foot trailer in the parade playing Irish music with girls in low-cut, short black cocktail dresses and high heels walking behind it.

"The same group of six women complained to city hall that it was inappropriate with kids," Burnham said, adding with a laugh, "They looked very nice as far as I'm concerned."

The entry did not return.

The city of Dublin sets up the parade viewing bleachers and does cleanup as well as sponsoring the festival from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the nearby Dublin Civic Plaza. It will have carnival rides and more than 200 booths, featuring Irish tartan ties and scarves, Celtic capes and shawls, hand-knit wool sweaters and more.

There will be three stages with everything from traditional Irish folk music to Celtic Rock, from bagpipes to Celtic harp. Irish dancers will perform continuously on the Plaza Dance Stage, a favorite of the mayor.

"I like the whole setting -- and seeing the entire community come together, that's one of things I really like," Sbranti said. "It's a signature event for the Tri-Valley and a signature event for Dublin in particular. Having it brings everyone together."

An International Food Court will offer corned beef sliders, Irish bangers and mash, Guinness marinated tri-tip on Irish soda bread and fish and chips. Festival favorites such as funnel cakes and kettlecorn will also be available as well as lumpia and teriyaki chicken and beef kabobs.

A Tea Cottage will offer "a wee bit of Ireland" in a fresh cup of tea served in china with shortbread and scones near a cozy fireplace while a Celtic harpist performs.

On Sunday morning, the annual Shamrock 5K Fun Run and Walk will open registration at 7:15 a.m. at 6815 Dublin Blvd., with the race beginning at 8:30 a.m. The 3.1-mile course draws about 1,800 participants. Although preregistration is over, people can sign up Sunday morning for $30.

Tonight the Dublin Sister City Association is holding its Green & White Gala at the Dublin Senior Center with an Irish happy hour, dinner and dancing to live music.

"It's great to see how the event has grown," Sbranti said. "It's a great setting, right in middle of city, it works out really well. There's a real sense of atmosphere."

"Rain or shine we have a good time," he added.