This Friday marks the Feast of Saint Patrick — Ireland’s biggest annual festival. In some cities there are five days of parades, pubs and people pouring into the streets for their patron saint. Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the United States, though, and why is it so prominent?
Between 1820 and 1930, around 4.5 million Irish people immigrated to the United States — at least 32 million Americans today have Irish ancestry. And like all other ethnic groups that coexist in America, their contributions have had a substantive impact on our society.
If you’ve ever felt speechless staring at a Georgia O’Keeffe, haunted hearing Billie Eilish, awestruck watching Muhammad Ali move, or like your inner child could leap out of you during a Disney movie, you have Irish immigrants and their descendents to thank.
Fort Wayne itself is a city storied with Irish-American mothers, fathers, entrepreneurs, arts and artisans, and civil & labor rights leaders. The Wabash and Erie canal that once ran through Downtown was dug by Irish laborers.
In short, we have a lot to celebrate. So whether you identify as Irish, have a soft spot for Guinness, or simply love a good, hearty meal, come out to eat, drink, and be merry in honor of our friends and family from the Emerald Isle.
If you’re looking to start St. Patrick’s Day — or any day — off right, meet your mates at JK’s starting at 11:00 a.m. for a full Irish breakfast, also known as a “fry-up.” They do their own take on Irish stew, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, even a cod burger. And if you’re vegetarian or vegan, they have plenty of less traditional, but equally delicious options.
If you haven’t been, JK’s looks like it was airlifted from the streets of Dublin and dropped right in the middle of Downtown Fort Wayne. It’s so authentic looking, you’ll be tempted to forget you’re stateside once you’re inside. Few other Fort Wayne pubs will pour you a true 20-ounce pint of Guinness. If “the black stuff” isn’t your thing, they have Harp, Smithwick’s, and several others, including Magners Irish cider. Then there’s always Irish coffee, Irish whiskey, Irish slammers, picklebacks, Irish fog…pick your poison!
Tomorrow, their Wayne Street music tent and beer garden open at 2:00 p.m., with local music until midnight, including traditional Irish (“trad,” in Ireland) music from Soltre, and Flogging Molly-inspired headliner, The Mighty McGuiggans.
Deer Park Irish Pub – 25th Annual Clover Classic
Just outside Downtown Fort Wayne, you’ll find Deer Park Irish Pub—a Fort Wayne institution that throws an unrivaled annual St. Patrick’s Day festival, with three days of Irish games, food, drinks, and music.
The opening ceremony, complete with bagpipes and a green-beer-keg, starts Thursday at 5:30pm. An Irish trad session will begin at 6:00pm. On St. Patrick’s Day proper, their tent opens at 9:00am. Events start at 3:30pm with a keg toss, Irish road bowling, and a parade. The Mighty McGuiggans play from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, and they end the night with DJ DAP-One, playing until 1:00am. Festivities and music continue Saturday night.
Food trucks will be serving food, with Matt’s Hitchin’ Kitchen offering Reuben fries, a butter burger, and a pub-style pretzel Reuben.
O’Reilly’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, on the Tincaps’ block of Jefferson, is an Irish bar with traditional Irish cuisine on the menu. Grab a pint or an Irish coffee to go with your bowl of Irish stew, fish and chips, or bangers and mash. They’re also a sports bar, so you and your muckers can watch all the games, regardless of whether you have a pot o’ gold resting on your March Madness bracket or not.
The Drip is open every day of the week, with a diverse menu that always offers top-notch Irish coffees and four dollar pints of Guinness. For St. Patrick’s Day, though, they’ve added some festive bucket and pitcher specials, plus an Irish breakfast sandwich, a banger & mash dog, and a seas of green salad. Their café is typically all-ages, but this all-day event is 21+. So find a sitter, and swing by between 7:00am and 11:00pm for something magically delicious!
Hop River Brewing Company
Barely outside Downtown Fort Wayne, you’ll find the family-friendly, energy-filled Hop River Brewing Company. All day for St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll be serving up an Irish-American classic: corned beef and cabbage. They also have an in-house imperial stout that’s excellent — it’s like drinking two Guinnesses at once!
Fort Wayne Firefighters’ Get Green Fest
Come Saturday morning, if you’re looking to run or walk through Downtown Fort Wayne in the first 5K of the year, head to 900 West Main Street. Kilts optional.
After the run, the fire department will dye the river green, host games for kids, and oversee an age-divisioned Lucky Charms eating contest, with trophies for the champs. There’s a cover-free heated tent with food, drinks, and activities for kids from 8:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
All of these events have a tent or indoor option. So, even if it’s “bucketing down” out there, don’t let the rain keep you at home on one of the biggest social events of the year!
Molly Conner is a Fort Wayne native and freelance writer. Having lived in Downtown Fort Wayne throughout her twenties, she loves watching her stomping grounds grow. With her love of storytelling and community in tow, she’s eager to tell Downtown Fort Wayne’s story piece-by-piece—exploring the people, spaces, and organizations that make it thrive.