By Pat Maurer
After a couple of quieter years of celebration, the 48th Clare Irish Festival will be in full swing this year with most of the traditional events plus some brand-new ones!
Some of the great events to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day have already begun and will continue even after the 2023 festival winds up.
The Irish Pet Photo Contest is already running and entries will be accepted until Wednesday March 15 at 3 pm. To enter, email a photo of your pet, dressed for St. Paddy’s day if you wish, to cityofclare.gov or pmdl.org said Parks and Rec Director Joy Simmer. Cost to enter is $5 and proceeds will go to the Spay-Neuter Animal Project (S-NAP) to assist with their 2023 projects.
Winners will be selected by S-NAP members with the first place winner awarded $50 Clare Cash; the second place winner awarded $25 Clare Cash and the third place winner getting $10 Clare Cash.
The Leprechaun Trap Contest is a fun one for all ages. Whoever can design and make the trap that captures the leprechaun will win a prize. Traps can be dropped off at the Pere’ Marquette District Library (PMDL) until March 17.
The actual four-day Irish Festival starts March 15th and will include entertainment, food and drink specials, shopping deals and much more, the Clare Chamber of Commerce posted. You won’t want to miss the Irish Parade, 5K/10K Walk-Run, Bed Races downtown, the Best Dressed Leprechaun Contest, Irish Recipe Contest, Kids Fun Run, and the annual Irish Fest Craft Show. Coming back this year will be a Food Truck Convoy downtown, a Blarney Stone on McEwan, warm-up fire pits, and the all new “Are you Irish Contest.”
Special festival events will be going on Wednesday through Saturday beginning with the Virtual Kathy Rynearson Memorial Food Drive from the 15th through the 18th celebrating a very special lady’s community legacy.
Watch the business windows for the Kids’ Poster Contest entries and you won’t want to miss Business After Hours, sponsored at the Doherty Hotel from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday evening is sponsored by Mercantile Bank. The Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Live & Silent Auction begins at 6:30 pm in the Doherty Ballroom.
Thursday, March 16 is the first day of the Lucky Leprechaun Story Walk along the Pere’ Marquette Rail-Trail. The event continues through April 3 and is a community partnership between the PMDL and Clare Parks and Recreation. To participate check in at the Library and get your clipboard and participation sheet. Then be sure to read all the pages on each post along the way. The event begins and ends at the library where you turn in your clipboard at the front desk and collect your goodie bag. You will be entered into a raffle for prizes. Complete the walk and post a selfie on the trail for an additional entry. Find the leprechaun door in the library and get a small prize.
To find some great Irish Cuisine on display, and even available for sampling, you won’t want to miss the Irish Recipe Contest in the Clare High School Cafeteria Thursday evening. There will be entertainment, judging begins at 5:30, and after the judging, Adult and Youth winners will be announced. Entries will be judged for Best and most authentic Irish appetizer, Best and most authentic Irish entrée, and Best and most authentic dessert. Each category will have a youth, adult and business winner.
Just across the CHS Commons, you won’t want to miss the 2023 Irish Festival Concert by the Gateway Community Band which begins at 7:30 pm on Thursday, March 16 in the Clare High School gym. Admission to all GCB concerts is free, but donations are accepted. Come and enjoy some fabulous music for the holiday.
Beginning at 11:30 and again at 4:30 on Friday, March 17, Author Deb McCombs-Kaiser will do a Read Aloud of her children’s’ book “Late for St. Paddy’s Day” at the Pere Marquette District Library.
Friday evening from 4 pm to Midnight, festival goers can warm up at the Fire Pits burning on McEwan Street from 4th to 5th Streets. From 5 pm to Midnight the Food Trucks also between Fourth and Fifth Streets will be open.
Then the fun really gets going with the 38th annual Irish Festival Best Frame Doubles Tournament at Gateway Lanes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 17, 18, and 19 with three squads on Friday, three squads on Saturday and two squads on Sunday. There is a $1,000 guaranteed first place prize.
Saturday brings out the Irish in everyone. The White Pine Pipes & Drums will be strolling downtown Saturday, making music for festival attendees. Beginning at 10 am the annual Craft and Vender Market will be going on at the Clare Primary School. And all day long there will be a Kiss my Irish Ass Donkey kissing booth at the Whitehouse Restaurant and don’t forget to look for the specials in most every business in town.
For early risers, Saturday begins at 7am sharp, when breakfast with the Boy Scouts (Pack 3620 and Troop 620) will be serving a Green Pancake Breakfast at the United Methodist Church until 11 with including all-you-can eat pancakes, two sausages and a choice of coffee, milk or orange juice. Cost is only $5 per person, or $20 per family. Kids age 4 and under eat free.
At 8:30 am, the annual Leprechaun Costume Contest judging will be held at Witbeck’s Family Foods, with prizes for the best age newborn to 2, 3-6, 7-10, 11-14 and adult age categories.
9 am sharp is the start of the annual Clare Irish Festival 5K/10K Road Race and 2 Mile Walk. Online registration is available until March 15 at 11:59 pm. Registration after will be $25 and must take place in person on March 17 and 18. The link for online registration is https://runsignup.com/Race/MI/Clare/clareroadrace
Entry forms are available from the Clare Chamber of Commerce or online at https//www.claremichigan.com/irish-festival/. Visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Clare-Irish-Festival-Road-Race-1010545789057616/.
The Kids Fun Run takes place at 10:45 am Saturday. The half-mile run is free. Register at Clare High School from 7:15 to 10:15. If the number participating is large the race may be divided into two. Participants get a t-shirt, medal and coupon for a free cookie from J.T. Bakers of Clare. The kids run will be on blocked off roads around Clare High School.
The Irish Festival’s crazy Bed Races on McEwan Street from 3rd to 5th Street, will start by Ruckles Pier at 10:30 am. Sponsored by Jim’s Body Shop, the fastest bed wins $250 and there will be other prizes for “Most Fun” and “Best Irish Themed.” Decorations and costumes are encouraged. For registration and rules go to www.ClareIrishFestival.com.
The 48th annual Irish Festival Parade, the highlight of the weekend, will start at noon on Saturday at Wilcox Parkway and head down McEwan Street, traveling on the east Side of McEwan to State Street, then switching to the west side as they pass through downtown Clare before ending on Third. But just before the parade begins, look up! Everyone lining the parade route will be treated to a special “fly-over” by the Clare Area Pilots Association.
The parade will feature the 2023 Grand Marshal Ken Hibl, the former City Manager, plus loads of fun floats, vehicles and marchers and once again featuring the fantastic Scottsville Clown Band’s antics and music as they dance their way through the City.
If you miss them in the parade, after it’s over, the Clown Band will head to the Clare Moose Lodge for a special rollicking performance there around 2 p.m.
The parade might be over, but the fun continues Saturday afternoon with Cornhole at the Venue beginning at 1 pm.
At 4 pm it will be the Are You Irish? Contest downtown on McEwan Street between 4th and 5th Streets. Show your Irish! Prizes for wearing the most green, the greenest eyes, most freckles and the (naturally) reddest hair.
Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to pick up your Clare Irish Raffle Ticket for a chance to win the grand prize: a nine-day trip for one to Ireland. Second place will get $500; 3rd prize is $300; 4th place wins $200 and 5th place gets $100. The drawing is at 6 pm at Cops & Doughnuts in downtown Clare, and will be followed by Irish food and entertainment all evening long all around town!
There will be so much going on in Clare, most will find it hard to see it all, so pick out your favorite events. Visit www.clareirishfestival.com for a complete schedule or stop in at the Clare Chamber of Commerce inside the Clare Union Depot on 4th Street. The Chamber will be open on Saturday.