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This article previously ran in Real Detroit Weekly Magazine

Forefathers of the Detroit St. Patrick’s Day Party

By John Horn

When the St. Patrick’s Day Parade (3/13) and St. Patrick’s Day itself (3/17) rolls around, if you’re not immersed in the reverie along Michigan Avenue, you better have plans to hit one the biggest, most legendary St. Patty’s Day parties around.

Arguably one of the most recognizable Irish bars in the Detroit, the Old Shillelagh set the bar — or, in this case, the short, heavy wooden club — years ago and continues to be one of the true gems on St. Patrick’s Day. And now, for the first time, that same epic party vibe that is the epicenter of every 3/17, can now be experienced on Parade Day as well.

“We are opening our tents this year for the first time on parade Sunday,” says manager Shellie Lewis. “We will be running our shuttle bus to the parade route, before and after the parade, all day and all night. ”

Party people are going to have their hands full (we’re pretty confident you can handle it) with the bevy of St. Pat’s Day/Parade day-related activity the Old Shillelagh is providing. First, the Saturday prior to 3/17 (that would be 3/12, the day before the parade on Michigan Ave.), the Old Shillelagh hosts a warmup party called St. Practice Day. You won’t sound like Allen Iverson eschewing this type of practice. No, you’ll be throwing down some Guinness in Greektown.

They roll out the tents and live entertainment starts upstairs at 2 p.m. on St. Practice Day. The tents open at 8 p.m., with live Irish music and DJs all night.

Hit reset the next for the 53rd annual Detroit St. Patrick’s Day Parade, where you can party in the Shillelagh’s tent all Sunday.

And after that, four days later, the biggest Irish holiday of them all gets down on 3/17. The Shillelagh’s St. Pat’s party leaves guests wanting for nothing. And Shellie sets everything clear right up front about this legendary party.

“There is no green beer,” she says. “Guinness, car bombs, Smithwyck’s, Harp and lots of Jameson,” she says, reeling off the official breakfast of party people everywhere.

And speaking of breakfast, the Old Shillelagh serves it all morning on 3/17. Keep yourself nourished throughout the rest of the day (oh, there’s really no reason to leave) with their authentic corned beef sandwiches and juicy cheeseburgers.

They open at 7 a.m. and get full pretty quickly. The tents open at 8 a.m. And you should probably know something about those tents. The Old Shillelagh was the first Detroit bar to implement the outdoor tent for St. Patrick’s Day, doing so 20 years ago. They did it for five years before anyone else followed suit.

And from within those tents, you’ll hear the fantastic Irish music of Billy Dixon, as well as other traditional music and some top 40 stuff mixed in.

Approximately 5,000-6,000 people come through the Old Shillelagh’s door on 3/17, and you can expect a hearty, fun crowd on the days leading up to St. Patrick’s Day as well, including parade day.

That’s a lot of great party-hosting. For Shellie, though her take on it all is rooted in such sublime simplicity, it’s nearly poetic.

“We just throw parties,” she says. “That’s what we do; huge parties in our bar.”

And for that, you should thank them.

 

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