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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: March 13, 2018

St. Patrick’s Day on a Saturday means more of everything Irish

Written by: Ray Routhier


Lots of people treat St. Patrick’s Day like a holiday no matter what day of the week it falls on.

They take the day off, or call in sick, and plan their whole day around which bagpipe band is playing when, who has the best bargain on corned beef and what bar pours the best pint of Guinness.

But this year, with St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Saturday, it’s a holiday and a day off for just about everyone. Instead of cleaning the garage or re-organizing the sock drawer like a typical Saturday, you can spend the whole day and evening celebrating all things Irish.

And the folks who make St. Patrick’s Day fun, including restaurants and bars, are ready for the Saturday festivities. They’ve got more music, longer hours and plenty of Guinness. Ri Ra Irish Pub on Commercial Street will have a tractor trailer full of the black stuff on standby. Bull Feeney’s on Fore Street will have a St. Patrick’s Day kickoff at midnight Friday, with live music from The Middle Men. Based on the crowds they usually get, Brian Boru on Center Street is touting their day of music, food and drink as “one of the biggest celebrations in New England.” The Irish American Club’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, usually on a Sunday, will feature about 30 bagpipers and an equal number of Irish step dancers, click-clacking their way down Commercial Street.

Here’s a closer look at the Saturday St. Patrick’s Day celebration at a few southern Maine locales.


Ri Ra will kickoff St. Patrick’s Day by waking revelers up with a frigid dip in the ocean, at its annual Paddy’s Day Plunge off East End Beach at 5:30 a.m. Breakfast will be served at 6 a.m., rugby matches (an Irish favorite) will be shown on TV beginning at 8:30 a.m. and live Irish music begins at 9 a.m. with Ben Kilcollins and Tim Mercer. Three other groups will perform throughout the day, when the food menu will feature corned beef and cabbage, fish and chips and shepherd’s pie.

Ri Ra Irish Pub on Commercial Street in Portland
Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Last year, Ri Ra sold more than 50 kegs of Guinness, according to sales manager Rebecca Warner, so for a St. Patrick’s Day on a Saturday, the pub is expecting to sell 20 kegs before noon. A tractor trailer full of Guinness kegs will be on standby to make an emergency delivery as soon as the first 20 run out. Other numbers from last year’s festivities at Ri Ra, which could be surpassed this year, include 200 pounds of beef brisket, 1,200 pounds of potatoes and 6,300 beers sold.

Ri Ra Irish Pub, 72 Commercial St., Portland;


Could be pretty cold on Saturday, but that doesn’t matter to the hardy men who work at Bull Feeney’s. Most are planning to wear kilts to celebrate the day. The festivities actually kick off Friday night with music by the Middle Men starting at 9:30 p.m. and lasting until after midnight. Music will include Uilleann pipe tunes from Tom & Don, followed by four more musical acts playing through the day downstairs, and four different groups playing upstairs. The Maine Public Safety Pipe & Drum Corps will shake the whole building beginning at 11 a.m.

The pub at Bull Feeney’s is ready for St. Patrick’s Day.
Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Breakfast will be served starting at 6 a.m. One option, the Ulster Fry, includes two eggs, rashers (Irish bacon), cured pork tenderloin, one banger (sausage), black and white pudding (more sausage), baked beans and roasted tomato. Other menu items a little later in the day include corned beef and cabbage and steak and Guinness pie.

Bull Feeney’s, 375 Fore St., Portland;


Organizers of the Irish American Club’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade expect bigger crowds this year. Usually the parade is on a Sunday, when all good Irish folks go to church.

Staff photo by Jill Brady

The 45-minute parade kicks off at noon at the Portland Fish Pier and heads east on Commercial Street, finishing at the Casco Bay Ferry terminal. Some 300 people are expected to march, including the approximately 30 members of the Claddagh Mhor Pipe Band and a similar number of dancers from the Stillson School of Irish Dance. The flags of all of Ireland’s 32 counties will be proudly displayed during the parade. Other Irish-connected groups participating include the Maine Irish Heritage Center, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Burns Ceili Group, Portland Hurling Club, and the Maine Gaelic Sports Alliance. There will also be floats, bands, fire and police departments, and members of the Irish Coast Guard from Cork marching with the U.S. Coast Guard. A reception follows the parade at the Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray St., Portland, featuring a cash bar, food for sale, music and dancing.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Commercial Street, Portland;


Both Byrnes Irish Pubs, in Bath and Brunswick, will have Irish food and music all day long. In Brunswick, the music starts at 6 a.m. with Bitter Brew, followed by four other groups. The Maine Public Safety Pipe & Drum Corps, on its busiest day of the year, will make appearances at both pubs. Music in Bath starts at 7 a.m.

Staff photo by Tim Greenway

Breakfast is served at both at 6 a.m., including a “Kegs and Eggs” menu of Irish favorites, followed by corned beef and other traditional staples later in the day.

Byrnes Irish Pub, 16 Station Ave., Brunswick and 38 Centre St., Bath;


You don’t have to drive into Portland for St. Patrick’s Day revelry. The Black Bear Cafe in Naples has been doing up St. Paddy’s day for 15 years. Co-owner John Bohill says the day is a “high holy holiday” at Black Bear. Live music starts at 11 a.m. and goes all day. The menu will include corned beef, bangers, shepherd’s pie, leek and potato soup and a Guinness Orange Chocolate Cake with cognac ganache. Besides the beers, there will be some 30 types of Irish whiskey. Bohill says there’s always a “surprise” on St. Patrick’s Day at the cafe, which might include bagpipers or dancers showing up unexpectedly.

There’s always whiskey on hand, but on St. Patrick’s Day Saturday the Black Bear Cafet in Naples will have 30 kinds of Irish whiskey available.
Photo courtesy of The Black Bear Cafe

Black Bear Cafe: An Irish Pub, 215 Roosevelt Trail (Route 302), Naples;


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