Belleville keeps plugging away, trying to keep people in town on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day.
Sure, St. Louis has a St. Patrick’s Day run, parade and outdoor festivals, but so does Belleville, local organizers say, and you don’t have to fight the Mississippi River bridge traffic.
“It used to be just the parade in Belleville, but now it’s an all-day event,” said Scott Schmelzel, co-owner of Big Daddy’s 618 and the force behind a downtown block party.
Belleville’s celebration will kick off at 9 a.m. March 11 with the second-annual Lucky Leprechaun 5K. About 250 people showed up for the inaugural run/walk last year, Schmelzel said.
“Most people wore green or shamrocks last year, and there was a group that ran in green tutus,” said Wendy Pfeil, executive director of Belleville Main Street.
The run/walk will begin and end at Union United Methodist Church on East Main Street.
“Last year, it was downtown, but this year, there’s a new course because of construction at Khoury League Park,” Pfeil said. “We’ll stay on the east side of (Illinois 157) and utilize the MetroLink bike and running trail.”
Next on Belleville’s March 11 lineup is the 15th annual Ancient Order of Hibernians St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Organizers expect 90 to 100 floats, bands and other units.
The parade will begin at 11 a.m. at Third and A streets, go south on Third and east on West Main, continue on East Main and end at Oak.
“You’ve got thousands of Irishmen getting together to celebrate their Irish heritage,” said Parade Chairman Pat Hickey, past president of the Ancient Order of Hibernian’s Michael P. Keeley Division 1. “It’s like a family reunion.”
Hickey is “75-percent Irish,” he said. His grandparents were Irish immigrants.
Grand Marshall Dan Cronin, a longtime division member from St. Libory, will lead the parade in honor of Gish Johnson, a core member who died recently.
New this year will be the Scott Air Force Base Honor Guard.
“We invited them to help us celebrate and recognize (the base’s) 100th anniversary,” Hickey said.
Also new are bagpipers from the Ainad Shriners of Southern Illinois. Many local residents will simply walk in the parade wearing their Irish family tartans or coats of arms.
“We’ve got the Ainad clowns coming to entertain the crowd before the parade,” Hickey said. “It’s just going to be a fun day.”
For the fourth year, a downtown Belleville block party will be held after the parade with two stages and food and drink booths from 1 to 8 p.m. Restaurants and bars will also be open.
West Main Street will be closed to vehicles from the Belleville Square to High Street and from Jackson to Charles. The 100 block of West Main, as well as High and Jackson, will remain open.
“There will be live music on both ends of the block party,” Schmelzel said.
United United Methodist Church will join in the St. Patrick’s Day fun by hosting a concert by the Irish sessions band Celtica at 7:30 p.m. March 11 as part of its Fine Arts Series.
The band will play traditional songs from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Celtic regions of France, Spain and Canada, as well as the United States.
Admission is free. An offering will be collected. The church is at 721 E. Main Street. A reception will follow the concert.
Downtown St. Louis
If you’re still itching for a big-city celebration, the 48th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in St. Louis will begin at noon March 11 at 20th and Market streets and go east on Market and south on Broadway, ending at Clark.
Organizers expect more than 130 floats, bands, giant cartoon-character helium balloons and 5,000 marchers.
The parade will follow the 39th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade Run, which kicks off at 9 a.m. and covers a five-mile course, beginning at Ballpark Village and ending at Eighth and Market. It attracted 8,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair racers last year.
Shamrock Village festivities will include live music and vendor booths from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aloe Plaza, across Market Street from Union Station. Helium balloons will float overhead before the parade.
An Irish Village celebration at Ballpark Village will be open before, during and after the parade with a live band, food and beverages.
Downtown Alton will hold its St. Pat’s Day Fest from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 11.
Fifteen bars and restaurants along Third, Broadway and State streets will offer everything from green beer to corned-beef sandwiches, Irish car bomb drinks to fiddle music.
Participating businesses include Bluff City Grill, Bottle & Barrel, Bubby & Sissy’s, Catdaddy’s, Chez Marilyn, Don & Penny’s, Elijah P’s Burgers & Brews, Firehouse Tavern, Hops House at Argosy Casino, Johnson’s Corner Restaurant, Morrison’s Irish Pub, Old Bakery Beer Co., Ragin Cajun Piano Bar, State Street Market and Tony’s Restaurant.
A free shuttle will transport revelers with stops at Catdaddy’s, Elijah P’s, Johnson’s Corner, Bluff City Grill and Argosy Casino.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians Father Dempsey Division 1 will hold its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade at 12:30 p.m. March 17, the actual holiday, in the Dogtown neighborhood of St. Louis. It will march down Tamm Street, starting at Oakland and ending at Manchester.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations
- Belleville — Lucky Leprechaun 5K run/walk at 9 a.m. March 11, beginning at Union United Methodist Church; Ancient Order of Hibernians Parade at 11 a.m. on Main Street; and block party from 1 to 8 p.m. on West Main. For more information, visit www.bellevillemainstreet.net or call 618-233-2015.
- Union United — Celtica concert at 7:30 p.m. March 11 at Union United Methodist Church. Free admission; offering collected. Reception to follow. For more information, call 618-233-6375.
- St. Louis — St. Patrick’s Day Parade Run at 9 a.m. March 11, beginning at Ballpark Village; St. Patrick’s Day Parade at noon on Market and Broadway streets; Shamrock Village from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aloe Plaza; and Irish Village before, during and after parade at Ballpark Village. For more information, visit www.irishparade.org or call 314-241-7287.
- Alton — St. Pat’s Day Fest from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 11 at 15 restaurants and bars along Third, Broadway and State streets. Free shuttle. For more information, visit www.altonst.pats.com or call 618-465-6676.
- Dogtown — Ancient Order of Hibernians Parade at 12:30 p.m. March 17 on Tamm Street in Dogtown neighborhood of St. Louis. For more information, visit www.stlhibernians.com or email to email@example.com.