You'll hear the lilt of laughter as the 2010 Alltech Lexington St. Patrick's Parade and Festival fill downtown on Saturday with Irish music, singers, dancers, bag pipers, storytellers, food and spirits.
The dear father himself, the Rev. Mark Dreves, rector at the Cathedral of Christ the King, will do a blessin' of the keg from Alltech Brewery at 11 a.m. on the Centre Pointe block. After event organizers take a wee sip of the brew, the festival officially gets under way.
This year's St. Patrick's Day festivities will have an expanded schedule of entertainment, food and children's activities, said Bill Enright, an organizer of the festival.
The festival is sponsored by the Bluegrass Irish Society, the city Division of Parks and Recreation, and Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co., which is owned by Pearse Lyons, a native Irishman.
The singin' and the dancin' start at 11 a.m. in a 100-foot tent and continue until 7 p.m., with a break for the parade at 1 p.m.
Festival-goers will find all the Irish fun on that bit of green in the middle of downtown: the CentrePointe block.
"We'll have three tents with more vendors, more musicians, more food and entertainers," said Enright, who is president of the Bluegrass Irish Society.
This will be the first event on the block bounded by Main, Upper, Vine and Limestone streets since 14 historic buildings were razed to make way for a high-rise development that never materialized and the block sown with grass seed.
Enright said he approached developer Dudley Webb, an owner of the CentrePointe property, to ask whether the festival could set up tents on its grassy lawn.
"If you're Irish long enough, you get bold," he chuckled.
If there should be rain, it will not deter any of the activities.
"At home in Ireland, we call that a nice soft day," said Enright, son of Irish immigrants. He has helped to organize the St. Patrick's Day parade in Lexington since the first one 31 years ago.
Here are details about each component of the festivities.
Liam's Fancy, the musical duo of Dan Cummins and Beverly Buchanan, will perform several times during the day in the entertainment tent. Liam's Fancy is popular with patrons at McCarthy's Irish Bar on South Upper Street, across the street from the Centre Pointe block.
Also on stage will be musicians, bagpipers, singers, fiddlers, dancers and storytellers.
"The Irish love their music," Enright said, noting that Ireland's official emblem is not the shamrock but a harp.
Fun for kids
One tent will be dedicated to children's activities, which will change every 45 minutes. To help the kids burn off energy, they also can romp and play in the inflated bouncy castle.
The daylong festivities start with the fourth annual Shamrock Shuffle 3K race, a family fun road race, at 10 a.m.
Runners can register on Friday between 4 and 7 p.m. at John's New Shoes Plus in Woodhill Center. On Saturday, take check or cash to the atrium in Victorian Square, Broadway and Main Street, and register between 8 and 9:15 a.m.
Registration is $25. The race benefits the Pat Smith Habitat for Humanity Endowment Fund.
Local police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty have been named posthumous honorary grand marshals for the city's 31st St. Patrick's Parade. A marching unit of police and firefighters will lead the parade.
The St. Patrick's Day parade is usually pretty special, Enright said.
"We haven't done one parade 31 times," he said. "We've done 31 unique parades."
There will be clowns, bagpipers, the March Madness Band, beauty queens, belly dancers and, of course, someone dressed up as St. Patrick.
Fairway Farm is bringing its border collies to herd about a dozen sheep down the parade route. Afterward, a large pen will be set up where the sheep will be on display.
The parade steps off at 1 p.m. at Main Street and Midland Avenue. It will turn left on South Upper and end on Vine Street.
Irish food and fancies
The festival's food tent will offer homemade soups, stews, bread and corned beef and cabbage — although Enright says corned beef and cabbage is not really typical of Irish food.
"In Ireland, the dish is bacon and cabbage," he said. "When the Irish come to the United States, they find out their favorite food is corned beef and cabbage. They just smile and eat it."
An Alltech beer garden will be set up, serving several Alltech beers. Or you can sample the brewery's newest product, Bluegrass Sundown, an Irish coffee liqueur. Souvenir Alltech mugs will be given out as long as the supply lasts.
Items from Ireland including including mugs and cookies will also be for sale.