Portland’s St. Patrick’s Day parade will be virtual this year, but you’ll still be able to see some colorful costumes. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

The first big thing the pandemic took away from a lot of people last year was St. Patrick’s Day.

People did not revel in huge numbers in pubs in Portland, as restaurants and bars were just beginning to close down. The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on Commercial Street in Portland, usually joyous and loud, was canceled. But this year, the lovers of all things Irish in Maine have made plans for St. Patrick’s Day – which is Wednesday – to be celebrated in innovative and adaptive ways.

These include a virtual parade, Irish cooking lessons online, livestreaming Irish music concerts, and corned beef and stout to go. There are also places serving up Irish food and music in person, with reservations or other safety guidelines.

Here are a few St. Patrick’s Day activities happening around Maine, whether you want a DIY celebration at home or are looking for a socially-distanced night out. Remember that all state guidelines about social distancing and masks apply, even on St. Patrick’s Day.

The duo Castlebay will perform as part of a virtual St. Patrick’s Day concert organized by Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath. Photo courtesy of Chocolate Church Arts Center

DANCE A JIG

Maine-based musicians Will Woodson and Caitlin Finley will perform Irish dance music – think jigs and reels – in a livestreamed concert from their Portland home Wednesday at 8 p.m. Woodson plays flute and uilleann while Finley plays fiddle. The pair performs traditional Irish music that’s grounded in the textures and rhythms of the rich Irish-American soundscape of the 1920s and ’30s. Their show is sponsored by Irish Night at Blue, a 15-year-old Irish music series at Portland venue Blue. The show is free, but donations to the musicians are welcome. To watch the show, go to the Irish Night at Blue Facebook page or its YouTube channel.

The Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath is putting on a virtual St. Patrick’s Day Showcase Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. It features Irish and Irish-influenced musical performances from Maine artists Dave Rowe, Jud Caswell, Bitter Brew and Castlebay. The show is free, but audience members will be asked to consider donating to support Chocolate Church Arts Center. For more information and a link to the St. Patrick’s Day show, go to chocolatechurcharts.org. 

While not exactly a St. Patrick’s Day event, Maine folk legends Schooner Fare are doing a recorded concert with members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra which be available online beginning Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The traditional Irish tune “Danny Boy” will be played, as well as a medley of two traditional Irish-Anglo songs, “The Water is Wide” and “Seeds of Love.” Tickets are “pay-what-you-can” starting at $10. For more information, go to PortlandSymphony.org. 

Portland’s St. Patrick’s Day parade will be virtual this year, and will include video pipers and other musicians. Staff photo by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer.

KEEP ON MARCHING

Last year’s big St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Portland was canceled, which was a bummer. This year the Irish American Club of Maine, which organizes the parade, decided to put a virtual parade together instead. The event is being produced with help from Maine Irish Heritage Center. As of early March, organizers had heard from 50 groups or individuals planning to submit videos for the virtual parade. These range from 15-second shoutouts to longer videos of people marching or people with their own floats. There will be people in costumes – leprechauns and St. Patrick himself – plus some local mascots, pipe bands, musicians and Irish dance groups. To see the virtual parade, scheduled to go online Sunday at noon, go to IrishofMaine.org.

To get yourself into an Irish mood prior to the parade and St. Patrick’s Day in general, take advantage of a Facebook event called “How Do You Irish?” organized by the Maine Irish Heritage Center and The Irish American Club of Maine. From now until St. Patrick’s Day, the two groups will be sharing recipes, Irish history and favorite family traditions online. To get involved, go to the Facebook event page for “How Do You Irish? A Virtual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration” and click “interested” or “going” to be notified when posts go up.

Try a Maine-made stout on St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps the Black Fly Stout from Gritty’s. Photo courtesy of Gritty McDuff’s.

GREEN COOKING?

Speaking of Irish recipes, Bravo Maine is offering a St. Patrick’s Day online cooking class Wednesday at 5:45 p.m., for $25. The menu includes steak with stout sauce and colcannon, a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with cabbage and bacon, and the recipe serves four. People who sign up will get a list of ingredients to buy and a Zoom link. For more information or to sign up, go to “St. Patrick’s Day Online Cooking Class” on Facebook.

PULL YOUR OWN PINT

If you’re going to cook Irish, you’ll need some good Irish beer. Luckily Maine has no shortage of breweries making stout or other beers favored in Ireland. You can go online to see what your favorite Maine brewer might be offering, then head to the brewery or a neighborhood store to pick some up. Bunker Brewing in Portland has a dry Irish Oatmeal Stout you can buy in cans, to go. It’s a nitro beer so that it foams up at home, just like on draft. You can also get it on tap at the brewery tasting room. Nonesuch River Brewing in Scarborough has Red Irish Style Ale, brewed with Irish Ale yeast. Geary Brewing in Portland also makes an Irish Red Ale, only available this time of year. Sebago Brewing Co. offers its Lake Trout Stout – a nitro stout brewed with oatmeal – on tap at its Greater Portland locations. You can get it while dining in or to go, as long as you order food. On St. Patrick’s Day, the menu will include a traditional corned beef dinner. Gritty McDuff’s offers its Black Fly Stout on St. Patrick’s Day at its southern Maine brewpub locations. Bottles or growlers of it can be purchased there too.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Corned beef dinners are on the menu at several Portland-area restaurants, takeout or dine-in. Shutterstock

There are restaurants offering corned beef and St. Patrick’s Day goodies to go, and others doing dine-in with customer limits and reservations. Some are doing both.

The Frog and Turtle in Westbrook is offering an in-person St. Patrick’s Day experience with Irish food – including bangers and mash and a corned beef and cabbage dinner – plus Irish instrumental music by the band Moore Wild Lynch. Capacity will be limited to about 40 people on each of the restaurant’s two floors. Ri Ra, an Irish pub in Portland, will be open all day for St. Patrick’s Day but is encouraging reservations. The menu will include traditional Irish breakfast, bangers and mash, a corned beef Reuben and boxty, sort of an Irish potato pancake. Food will be available for takeout as well.

O’Reilly’s Cure in Scarborough is offering a special St. Patrick’s Day menu for both dine-in (reservations strongly recommended) and takeout. The menu includes corned beef and cabbage, Guinness stew, fish and chips, Guinness-braised beef and a cabbage roll casserole, among other dishes.

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