Pub crawls in honor of St. Patrick’s Day need to be special.
It’s not just about going to a lot of spots, drinking heavily or getting together with an obscenely large group. It’s about tradition, old friends, an unspoken code and knowing how to make an entrance.
A bagpiper helps.
For the busload of about 60 hitting bars from Glens Falls to Saratoga Springs on Saturday, the group had a bagpiper announcing their arrival and departure.
“He pipes us in and he pipes us out,” said Rich Ogden, organizer of the event now in its 13th year.
The group arrived at Druthers Brewing Company on Broadway in Saratoga Springs a little after noon. Veterans of this ride, one by one and wearing at least one green item, filed off the bus and headed to a specially cordoned off tent set up with macaroni and cheese and pints of beer.
Ogden wore beads, a necklace inviting people to kiss him because of his Irish heritage and a bright green vest he bought on the Internet. He proudly spoke about the trip’s history, which began with a 14-passenger van, ballooned to 120 people traveling on two tour buses and now has settled to one bus with about 60 regulars.
Every Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, or in the case of last year, on St. Patrick’s Day itself, people have come to expect this trip. Ogden said it was a safe, fun trip where no one had to drive.
A new twist to this year’s trip were tags displaying nicknames. Jolene Schaffer of Queensbury identified herself as “O’Jeff.” She has been on the trip for a handful of years and considers the people her family, even though most only enter her life one day a year.
Harvey Hveem of Glens Falls said the trip has become very exclusive since it shrunk to just one bus. As a result, an invitation is contingent upon understanding some of the basic etiquette. Unspoken, they include “no moping around ... and no beer muscles.” Beer muscles, Hveem said, are when people get drunk and angry.
“It’s all about having fun.”
There are no bars Ogden feels they need to visit every year. The only anchor is Sully’s Tavern in Glens Falls, where the trip starts with breakfast.
The biggest party Saturday was in downtown Albany, where the 63rd Annual Albany St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held with its usual fanfare, drunken revelry and green attire.
Sidewalks along the route were lined with people who traveled for the occasion or were taking a break from the bars.
The parade featured full-grown leprechauns, Mayor Gerald Jennings, police officers, fire trucks, bagpipers and Irish dancers.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were also ongoing at the Timothy Murphy Irish Pub at the Parrott House in Schoharie, where they’ve been having specials since Thursday. In a thick Irish accent, Dave McSweeney, owner of the pub, greeted patrons Saturday afternoon with the demeanor of someone speaking with a good friend.
This was the place to celebrate Saturday, as he expected people to pack in like sardines. The event included a special drink known as an Irish Kiss, a combination of Jameson Irish whiskey and Kahlua. Plus, McSweeney wasn’t shy about offering up a literal Irish kiss of his own.
“The crowd is at least double this time of year, standing room only,” he said.
“Last year was my first year having St. Patty’s Day, of course after the flood, and we opened the doors at 8 a.m. and we were sold out of Irish breakfast at 11 o’clock,” McSweeney said. “We ran out of corned beef at 3 in the afternoon. And it was standing room only all day and all night. Music playing all day.”
One of the unique things about the pub is that it’s one of the few places in the county offering a cozy Irish atmosphere and food. He added that people in his pub typically have smiling faces.
Gazette Reporter Bethany Bump contributed to this story.