Locals celebrate St. Patrick’s with food, festivities

St. Patrick’s Day is coming to the area a few days early this year with free celebrations in Front Royal and Winchester.

The Front Royal Volunteer Fire Department will be working with Power of Partnerships Alliance to host its second annual Irish Spring Festival on Saturday.

Ken Thurman, chairman of Power of Partnerships Alliance, said the inaugural festival brought out around 1,000 attendees last year – even in the snow and cold weather. Contests for best themed booth and best costume meant the fire station was filled with plenty of green and gold.

“The thing that was a surprise was how many people got dressed up for the costume contest,” he said. “We actually had a tough time judging it because there were so many people to judge – it was a very colorful festival.”

Attendees can browse 44 vendor booths upstairs and catch music and dance performances on stage. Then, they can grab some grub and beer at the food court and beer garden. If they’re feeling the luck of the Irish, they can kiss the Blarney Stone or enter into a pot of gold raffle for $100 in gold Sacajawea coins.

Beer enthusiasts can sample a number of brews at the festival with a commemorative lighted pilsner glass. Thurman said that the $15 price for a glass and three beers has gone down $10 since last year, while the beer selection has expanded.

“We decided to make it a bargain for everybody,” he said. “We’ve added some additional entertainment this year…it’s a regular family affair.”

Old Town Winchester is debuting its first St. Paddy’s Celtic Fest on Saturday in partnership with restaurants and businesses around Old Town.

When Old Town Winchester announced the event at a news conference last month, Downtown Manager Jennifer Bell said the festival will be Old Town’s first to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Ten percent of festival food and beverage sales will go toward the nonprofit.

The festival will feature artists playing Celtic, Irish and Scottish music selections at host businesses throughout the day. Bell said it’ll also be one of Old Town’s first events that’s primarily indoors. Other activities and entertainment will be dotted outside throughout Old Town.

Attendees can also catch some festive dancers during the celebration. Dancers from Italia Performing Arts will perform in front of the Old Civil War Courthouse at 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., and in conjunction with featured bands at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. McGrath Academy Irish Dancers will perform at the Bright Box Theatre from 3-3:45 p.m.

Besides enjoying some entertainment with a Celtic flair, kids and adults can get in on some St. Paddy’s activities. Kids can try their hand at a caber toss or leprechaun launch at Habitat for Humanity’s Celtic Games for Children in the afternoon. Visiting area businesses on a Leprechaun Hunt will earn participants a chance at a $25 restaurant gift certificate.

IF YOU GO:

• Irish Spring Fest: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Front Royal Volunteer Fire Department, 221 North Commerce Ave. Admission is free. For more details, visit http://www.irishspringfest.com

• St. Paddy’s Celtic Fest: 12-9 p.m. Saturday at Old Town Winchester. Admission is free. For more details, visit http://tinyurl.com/h9v4h6p.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

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