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Area Irish to celebrate another subdued St. Patrick's Day

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Shirley Sheridan remembers it all too well.

She and her husband, Joe, were preparing for the annual weekend block party to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at their Sheridan’s Irish Pub in Smyrna when notice arrived.

“It came down on the 12th, which was that Thursday, that we were not going to be able to do it, and thankfully, they gave us enough time that we could cancel. The tents had to come down, and those folks were gracious enough to accept the cancellation the day ahead of time. But no, unfortunately, we couldn’t have it last year,” she said.

“We had everything — the T-shirts, the music, the security, the fence, the lighting. Oh, my God, everything.”

The reason, of course, that Sheridan’s could not have its St. Patrick’s Day blast, which annually draws thousands of people, was a slate of restrictions imposed due to the dawning of what was then a new highly infectious disease called COVID-19.

One year later, St. Patrick’s Day festivities will still have to take a back seat to the virus. Area parades, most notably in Dover, Smyrna and Milton, have been called off, and many events normally held this time of year have been canceled.

That again includes the block party at Sheridan’s that usually fills the area with music, fun and food. Mrs. Sheridan said the cancellation is a little easier to take in 2021.

“At least this year, we knew enough in advance not to even consider trying to organize it. As much of a disappointment as it is, I don’t feel as bad as, obviously, last year. We’ve been able to at least have 50% occupancy inside. The last year, we could only do carryout for St. Patrick’s Day. There was no inside dining allowed. So that was devastating,” she said of her 19-year-old bar and restaurant on West Commerce Street.

To that end, Sheridan’s Pub is keeping the St. Patrick’s Day spirit alive all month with food favorites. And on Wednesday, it will serve a traditional Irish breakfast, starting at 9 and continuing until 11 or as supplies last.

It will consist of Irish sausages, rashers (Irish bacon), black-and-white pudding, baked beans, scrambled eggs and toast.

The restaurant will have shirts for the first 50 guests, but social distancing will be enforced for those in line.

There will be a slightly reduced menu for the remainder of the day, with giveaways throughout. Reservations are strongly suggested by calling 659-5566 or by sending the pub a message through Facebook.

No more than four adults will be seated at any table, along with two children. Tables will be offered for a period of two hours.

Mrs. Sheridan said restrictions will be strictly enforced, as they have been for the past year at the pub.

“We follow the guidelines, I’ll be very honest. I know some people say, ‘Oh, you know, be the renegade.’ But we are going to follow the guidelines and, obviously, the social distancing in place, and we’re going to follow through with it and just do it as best we can,” she said.

“We’re not having any live music because you have to have a certain space between your entertainment and your guests. And that’d be another table that we wouldn’t have if we had live music. Every seat counts, this year more than ever,” she added.

Although they will be marking the holiday this year at Sheridan’s, Mrs. Sheridan said they will miss the big annual block party.

“It’s kind of like a big coming-out-after-winter party. People start in January, confirming the date that we have it and that they can get sitters or request off of work or whatever it might be,” she said.

“And it wasn’t just us who took the hit (from the cancellations). Even the taxi service, they took it because we always pay for taxi service outside. Some of the local restaurants where people can get to sit down, if our wait is too long, they’ll go to a local restaurant and eat there and come back. So everybody has been adversely impacted because of it.”

She is already hearing from folks who are looking forward to next year.

“From the messages I’m getting, we’re hearing ‘Well, maybe next year.’ I’m almost afraid because they’re going to come out swinging in every which way, ready to party. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God, are we gonna be ready for this?’ We’ll give it our best shot. That’s for sure,” she said.

A native of Ireland, Mrs. Sheridan said St. Patrick’s Day is not celebrated the same way over there as it is here.

“Back at home, it used to be a religious holiday, where everything was closed. Well, officially, everything was closed. Whereas when we first came over here, it was like, ‘Oh, my God, everybody parties on that day. It’s like a big party.’ So you know, when in Rome. So that’s honestly how it evolved,” she said.

• Colin Lehane, another transplant from Ireland to Kent County, was also surprised to see how Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

“Yeah, it’s a bigger deal here. It is a national holiday over there, so schools are closed and what have you. The bars and pubs are always full on St. Patrick’s Day, that’s for sure. It’s a traditional day to go to the bar and hang out there all day it seems.

“But apart from that, a lot of stores are closed, and it’s a holiday, and it is more somber. My understanding is the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was in this country,” said Mr. Lehane, who is president of the Irish Society of Delmarva, based in Dover.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place March 15, 1762, in lower Manhattan in New York. Before this time, St. Patrick’s Day was honored as a Catholic feast day, on which a special Mass was attended and nothing more. But starting in 1762, in a show of national pride, Irish soldiers within the British Army marched through Manhattan in honor of their patron saint.

Mr. Lehane got to witness the excitement of St. Patrick’s Day in America firsthand several years ago during a trip to New York City.

“It was an experience, oh my goodness. You hear about the insanity of it all, but I kind of got adopted by a group of guys when I was out there. They heard my accent, and they’re like, ‘You’ve got to come with us for a drink,’ and I was like, ‘OK.’”

Mr. Lehane moved to this side of the pond in 2005. He met his wife on a trip to the States.

“I bumped into her, and we hit it off. I called her the next day and asked her to go to dinner. She said yes, and we stayed in touch. And, eventually, one of us was going (to) move, and that was me,” he said.

A native of Cork, the second largest city in Ireland, he became an American citizen, but COVID-19 even put a bit of a damper on that.

“I had a green card for the longest time, and I didn’t really think about it too much. And then, at the end of 2019, I applied. I said, ‘We have kids and stuff here, and I’ve got roots, and I’m just going to make this permanent.’ So I became a citizen last year, which was great. Except, because of COVID, I wasn’t allowed to bring any family members or friends in the ceremony, which was very disappointing, honestly, because I always figured my kids would be with me and my wife, some friends. They all wanted to come. So that was a bummer,” he said.

Mr. Lehane took over as president of the Irish Society this past year, too, and the normally busy schedule of events came to a standstill. The group was able to get in its annual St. Patrick’s Day party at Fraizer’s on the Water in Dover just under the wire in 2020. But there’s been nothing since, including this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

“We haven’t met in a year. We have a board, and we would meet once a month. We haven’t met in person. We’ve had some Zoom meetings, and it’s all about planning events where we would get together and all of that, and we just haven’t had much to plan,” he said.

“We’re literally waiting for things to open back up properly. We have a lot of older people in the group, and there’s just too much risk with COVID-19. I don’t want anyone catching it at an event or something.”

Mr. Lehane said he is determined to have a St. Patrick’s Day party at any point this year.

“My plan here really is to have a delayed St. Patrick’s Day celebration, essentially where we all get together. We’ll have corned beef and cabbage. And we’ll do it here in Dover at Fraizer’s. We’ll have just a standard meal, and we’ll have some Irish dancing. It’s traditional music playing, and we’ll just all get together and see each other again.”

• Down at the beach, St. Patrick’s Day means the traditional summer opening of The Starboard in Dewey Beach. This winter, the longtime bar and restaurant on Del. 1 has remained open Thursdays through Sundays. Next week, it will open Wednesday, but things will be a bit different.

DJs will entertain throughout St. Patrick’s Day, and acoustic shows will be performed by Kristen & the Noise on March 20 and Bryen O’Boyle on March 21.

In an email to patrons, Starboard owner Steve Montgomery said the facility will take the 50% occupancy restriction seriously, with no more than four to six people per table.

“We’ve been fortunate at The Starboard in that the state of Delaware and town of Dewey Beach have given us permission to expand our seating into our parking lot, which is currently tented and heated (with plenty of open air). That has allowed us to handle customers in a safe manner but expand our seating to try and have enough room to make up for having to distance tables,” he said.

Mr. Montgomery hopes things will return to normal eventually.

“As much as we’d love to kick off the summer season with our usual tradition, that will have to wait until next year unfortunately,” he said.

“We do not want to risk what should be an amazing summer by ignoring guidelines now. We expect things will open up further quickly after St. Patrick’s weekend with COVID numbers continuing to decline everywhere and vaccines going into arms.”

• At McGlynn’s Pub locations, which include Dover, St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated safely in the traditional way.

Green beer, corned beef and cabbage, Irish nachos and $5 car bombs are on the menu. Bagpipers will be at the Dover location on North State Street from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Reservations will be taken.

• Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Matt Lafferty and Andy Maher at Irish Eyes Restaurant & Pub in Lewes on Wednesday from 3-8 p.m.

• At the Bethany Blues location on Del. 1 in Lewes, Dustin Showers will perform covers and original tunes at 6 p.m.

• In Milford, the Second Friday event tonight at 7 is a celebration of Irish culture, featuring Irish dancers from the McAleer-Paulson School of Irish Dance in Lewes. This is a livestream event, which will include the Irish Rose Gift Shop of Milford, the Lewes Public Library and First Presbyterian Church of Milford.

Registration can be done at the library’s website or via email.

•Rehoboth Beach-based Thompson Island will be releasing four new beers inspired by St. Patrick’s Day this weekend.

“We realized we had a great opportunity to have some fun with our beers,” said Matt Patton, director of operations for SoDel Concepts, which owns Thompson Island Brewing Company and 11 other coastal Delaware restaurants.

Four variations on an Imperial Stout will release on draft Saturday. They will be available in flights of four and individual pours while supplies last. Versions of the beer include: bourbon barrel kissed; Tullamore Dew soaked oak chip aged; Bailey’s Irish Cream flavored; and Lucky Charms marshmallow infused.

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