Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Green light on for St. Patrick’s fun

Lot more offered than green beer to mark holiday

The People’s Parade is a popular sight during Deer Park Irish Pub’s annual Clover Classic.

Dean Jackson

Whatzup Features Writer

Published March 8, 2023

Official holiday or not, St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, March 17, is an all-in event bursting with Irish pride. It’s shamrocks, leprechauns, and taps spewing green beer. Menus, albeit temporary, are filled with dishes like corned beef. 

For a few days, everyone is Irish.

Clover classic

For a quarter-century, Deer Park Irish Pub has celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in its own special way. To hear owner Tony Henry talk, his pub’s annual Clover Classic is a community resource, an institution, but above all … a party.

Just months after opening Deer Park, he and a small, ragtag bunch of “visionaries” took to the back streets around the pub. Making the most of the moment, they meandered around in a small parade. Twenty-five years later, the Clover Classic is a three-day mini-festival. And just like in 1998, it’s not wild or raucous. It’s just a group of mostly regulars, doing what they do.

Henry’s twist on the merriment includes a bevy of Irish games and events. The highlight comes during the afternoon on St. Paddy’s Day when the parade sends folks marching a few blocks around the neighborhood at Spring Street and Leesburg Road. 

“We basically just walk,” Henry said of the one-block loop around the surrounding neighborhood south of the pub. “We amble along maybe with a balloon or beer in hand. We dub it the ‘world’s shortest parade.’ I haven’t got it verified by the Guinness Book of World Records.”

Clover Classic festivities actually begin Thursday, March 16, with the annual lowering of the gilded-green beer barrel at 5:30 p.m., followed by the tapping at 5:45 p.m.

“We have this gilded, glittered keg of beer that sparkles, especially when the sun hits it,” Henry said. 

Festivities begin in the tent at 9 a.m. Friday. Twelve men and 12 women will compete in the keg toss at 3:30 p.m.

Irish Road Bowling joins the lineup this year. At 4:30 p.m. participants will roll metal balls in a mix of golf and bowling. The balls, about the size of a tennis ball, are replicas of cannon balls. 

Later, there are authentic Irish dances from the Fort Wayne Dance Collective at 6 p.m. Throughout the day, their will be plenty of Irish music under the tent with The RagTag Bunch, The Mighty McGuiggans, Ireland Rocks, and DJ Dap closing things out.

The party continues Saturday, March 18, when The Distractions and OK Boomer Band supply music.

Get green fest

Another event that’s become a staple of St. Patrick’s Day is the Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters’ Get Green Fest. 

This year’s festival will actually be a day after St. Patrick’s but the fun will remain downtown. 

“It’s the only family friendly, you know, get green or St. Paddy’s Day festival that I’m aware of,” said Jeremy Bush, president of the Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters. “We have a lot of fun events for the kids. Kids even get a chance to handle a fire hose.”

According to Bush, Get Green Fest is the firefighters’ gift to the community with proceeds helping charities.

The festival started with a few firefighters dyeing the river green while enjoying a beer or two. Now the event fills the parking adjacent to Lutheran Downtown Hospital employee parking lot. 

After a 5-Kilt run/walk at 9:30 a.m., things pick up at 11 a.m. when the St. Marys River is turned green using an eco-friendly vegetable dye.

“The river greening is really the focal point of the whole day,” Bush said. “We are very fortunate to have some firefighters who have been doing this for a while. It can be challenging with fast currents and high-level river water.”

Children get into the act at noon with the Gold Coin Drop, with a Lucky Charms Eating Contest at 1 p.m.

The heated event tent is sure to be a popular spot. Opening at 8:30 a.m., you will be able to enjoy food and drinks, as well as DJ Jason Spuller playing music between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., followed by Debutants at 3 p.m.

“It’s a great family environment,” Bush said. 

Other happenings

Hop River Brewing Company’s bash gets going at noon on Friday, March 17, with bands rocking away as corned beef and cabbage is served all day. Live performers will be Bobcat Opossum at 3 p.m., Shrugging Sisters at 5 p.m., and The RagTag Bunch at 7 p.m.

At Henry’s Restaurant downtown, plenty of Irish dishes will be  served, including corned beef, cabbage, and lamb stew.

As you’d expect, JK O’Donnell’s Irish Ale House gets in on the celebration with eight hours of music, although this party is for those 21 years and older. On top of indoor festivities, the tent along Wayne Street will feature a musical lineup with Shrugging Sisters at 3 p.m., followed by The RagTag Bunch at 4:15 p.m., Soltre at 6:15 p.m., Debutants at 8:15 p.m., and The Mighty McGuiggans at 10:15 p.m.

Can’t decide on just one? No worries. The aptly named Fort Wayne’s Best Bar Crawls has you bounce from joint to joint from 4-10 p.m. You get a wristband that takes care of your cover charges and a digital map of venues and specials and live music and DJs at each bar. The lineup will be announced early Friday morning.

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