While St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hartford may have been the main event on Saturday, there was lots of pre- and post- parade partying both inside and outside all over the city where, for one day, by the looks of the crowd anyway, everyone was Irish.
Beyond the restaurants that opened early to get the party started, there were dozens of private parties going on beginning with Congressman John Larson’s “ceilidh” over at The Society Room.
At the same time over at lobbyist/pr firm Sullivan & LeShane, top guys Pat Sullivan, in scally cap of course, and Gene Sheehan, in his signature baseball cap, welcomed an eclectic group of revelers ranging from NBC Connecticut’s Gerry Brooks and WTIC’s Ray Dunaway to legislators including Democrat Russ Morin from Wethersfield and former CT Republican party head Chris Healy with CPTV’s Jerry Franklin and Leadership Greater Hartford’s Ted Carroll thrown in for some extra fun. Wardrobe of the day, more Irish wool knit sweaters than you could count and the menu, corned beef Reubens, cod balls, Irish soda bread and for those who imbibed (and who wasn’t?) Smithwick, Guinness, and Bailey’s.
“We started the parade party 10 years ago,” said Sheehan, “and it’s become a tradition.”
A lot of other traditions were going on at the First Presbyterian Church on Capitol Avenue where the parking lot had become a Gaelic “tailgate” heaven starting at around 6 a.m.
There were O’Reilly’s and Murphy’s and Kelly’s all with tents and buffets fit for the best of the Irish and Irish “wanna bes.” And in the midst of the pop-up party central was Mary Beth Syme, who was also celebrating, the parade, her heritage and the 10th anniversary of her family’s parade day get-together.
“We started it as away to get the family and friends together on a holiday that is just upbeat and animated,” said the event planner who proudly boasts of being 3/4 Irish. Each year Syme fires up the stove and the oven in her kitchen several days before parade day, preparing an assortment of dishes including colcannan (Irish mashed potatoes) and corned beef, and then transporting everything to the church parking lot by 6 a.m. on parade day to make sure she gets a good spot along the parade route.
“The parade is wonderful, it’s always wonderful,” said Syme, cooking up baked French toast, hot dogs and chili on the grill as the 80 guests arrived. Syme even arranges to have a porta-potty brought in for the convenience and comfort of guests.
New at her party this year were commemorative buttons honoring her late aunt, Sheila McKenna Harrison, who died in 2012 and whose contribution to the parade buffet was a special macaroni and cheese dish, prepared by other family members this year in her honor.
Admitting there have been years when the weather was less than desirable including horizontal rain, sleet and freezing cold temperatures, the Glastonbury resident said she doesn’t see an end to the party, despite the planning and the work involved. “It’s a tradition we plan on keeping,” she said. “It’s wonderful way for the family to get together.”