St. Patrick's Day events in South Florida: The Clydesdales? Really?

I have no problem with horses, from Mr. Ed to Shane Battier’s “Harlem Shake” Horsetronaut, but am I the only one around here who has an issue with the Budweiser Clydesdales worming their way into our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations?

In case you haven’t heard, Bud’s equine ambassadors, paddocked at Fort Lauderdale’s Holiday Park for reasons that I have come to learn have nothing to do with the Pride festivities going on there this weekend, will be the featured guests at St. Pat’s parades in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood.

First, on this celebration of all celebrations, does anyone want a Budweiser? If you can’t handle a Guinness or a Harp or a Smithwick's ale, or something from Jameson or Bushmills or a little Tullamore Dew, then stay home and have a glass of sweet tea.

Second, if you check your Irish history, you will find that their relationship to monarchies has been somewhat tense, so having the heavy-footed representatives of the vast King of Beers empire reign over these St. Patrick’s Day parades … Well, it’s totally lacking in cultural sensitivity.

Just ask Eugene Flynn, grand marshal of Hollywood’s 15th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival on Sunday. Flynn, whose family is from Sligo City, Ireland, is a longtime charter member of the Hibernians of Hollywood.

So, Gene, Budweiser Clydesdales at the Hollywood St. Pat’s parade? A travesty, am I right?

“No, it’s going to be a great crowd-pleaser. People love to see those horses. The kids love them, and it’s a great fit with all the family activities,” Flynn says from his Hollywood home. “Hey, I’ll be the one with the shovel following them around!”

OK, so maybe it is me. But my first refreshment will be Harp, with a Tullamore back.

Yes, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in South Florida kick off this weekend, with some cities pushing up their parades to corral marching bands that are also booked for the big events closer to the March 17 holiday in places such as New York, Boston and Chicago.

The Fort Lauderdale St. Patrick's Parade and Festival on Saturday is sponsored by Jameson Irish Whiskey, which should settle any unease about the authenticity of the festivities. Mayor Jack Seiler hosts the Irish Blessing at 11 a.m., followed by the second annual Leprechaun Leap family fun run down Las Olas Boulevard at 11:30. The parade, in which the Clydesdales make their local debut, is at noon, followed by the festival, with live music and chow, until 7 p.m. at Huizenga Plaza. Info: FtLaudIrishFest.com.

In Hollywood, the parade begins at 1 p.m. Sunday on a course that follows Hollywood Boulevard and Harrison Street and features the Clydesdales, the iconic NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, and South Florida radio personality Footy as emcee. Related family-friendly events begin at noon. Bands, including U2 tribute band UV at 2:45 p.m., will be set up at 19th and Hollywood. Info: St-Patricks-Day.com.

In West Palm Beach, the Irish Festival on Flagler is celebrating its 25th anniversary over the course of Saturday and Sunday. The family-style events roll out along the lakefront from Meyer Amphitheater (between Datura Street and Flagler Drive) from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. As it’s sponsored by the Irish Cultural Institute, nary a Clydesdale will be in sight, but you will find Gaelic food, the Celtic marketplace, dancers, a children’s area and music from the Screaming Orphans, Fire in the Kitchen,  Noel Kingston and the Young Wolfetones. Tickets: $5, ages 14 and younger free. Info: IrishFlorida.org.

All this is prelude, of course, to events at your favorite watering hole next weekend. Here are some recommended spots:

At Slainte Irish Pub and Kitchen in Boynton Beach (1500 Gateway Blvd.), owner Francis Feeney is well known for an over-the-top approach to St. Pat’s, and this year is no different, with three days of tented events March 15-17 (Friday is all about the pub’s sixth anniversary celebration). But it’s the party on March 16 that will warm the heart, even if it chills your head. Slainte’s sixth annual St. Baldrick’s Day head-shaving event will look to add to the $1.5 million it has raised so far for St. Baldrick’s, a national foundation fighting childhood cancer (StBaldricks.org). An Irish breakfast will be served from 8 to 11 a.m., with the traditional head shaving from 2 to 9 p.m. (More than 300 people took part last year.) Kids’ activities, games, street hockey, the Florida Panthers party van and free scoops of Blue Bell ice cream are part of the fun. Admission all weekend is free. Info: SlaintePubs.com.

Maguire’s Hill 16 (535 N. Andrews Ave.) in downtown Fort Lauderdale will have acclaimed Irish fiddler Paraic Keane warm things up on March 16 for festivities the next day under the traditional Maguire’s tent. Celtic Cross, Uproot Hootenanny, and Randi and Bluefire are among the scheduled bands. Sunday admission: $10. Info: MaguiresHill16.com.

At Dania Beach’s homey Field Irish Pub and Eatery (3281 Griffin Road), the indoor-outdoor events spread over two days. On March 16, gates open at 7 p.m. for Celtic Bridge (in the pub) and Celtic Mayhem (in the tent). Admission: $5, gets you a free pass on March 17. That’s when the entertainment includes Celtic Bridge, as well as Ian Millar from the Irish Rovers. Admission $10. Info: TheFieldFL.com.

At Fadó Irish Pub (900 S. Miami Ave.) in Miami’s Mary Brickell Village, they’ll do that thing they do this time of year: On March 16, the green beer begins flowing at 10:30 a.m. for the crowds watching the big-screen BBC telecast of the Six Nations Rugby beatdowns, with a live, local rock ’n’ roll soundtrack into the wee hours. Beginning at 7:30 a.m. March 17, you can start again with breakfast of eggs and a side of Guinness (or the other way around). Admission: $10 starting at 9 p.m. March 16; $20 starting at 1:30 p.m. March 17. Fado has daily Irish-flavored events all this week, as well. Info: FadoIrishPub.com/Miami.

Down the street, Brickell Irish Pub (1451 S. Miami Ave., Miami) will expand its fourth annual block party over two days March 16-17, with live bands and DJs. There’s no cover, but advance drink packages (what a concept) are available. Info: BrickellIrishPub.com.

Photo courtesy the City of Fort Lauderdale

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