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Get Your Green On: Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the Delaware Valley

Nowhere is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated more passionately than in America. Ironically, it was considered primarily a religious holiday in Ireland until recent years. But for millions of Americans, including the 31 million who claim Irish ancestry, it is an occasion to celebrate.

That celebratory mindset is certainly evident in the Delaware Valley. Indeed, ranks Philadelphia second, behind only Boston, on its Best Places to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day list. The site ranked 200 American cities in metrics that included the actual cost associated with going out to celebrate the holiday, along with safety and accessibility issues, weather, and perhaps most importantly, local tradition.

Boston sits atop the rankings followed by Philadelphia, Chicago (where the Chicago River is famously dyed green for the occasion), Pittsburgh, and New York.

Whatever you’re seeking in a dining experience or how passionate you are about St. Patrick’s Day, there is sure to be a venue suited to your tastes.

The Philadelphia area abounds with tradition and with establishments committed to creating a celebratory atmosphere for their patrons.

At the same time, the holiday’s religious origins haven’t been ignored.

Montgomery County resident Bridget Algeo grew up in Lansdale and recalls going into the city to attend the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Festive green lights at MaGerks

“Our family used to stay at the embassy Saturday night,” she said, “go to the (Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul) on Sunday morning and watch the Philadelphia parade from the eighth-floor balcony.”

William Thomas Cain is a photographer and travels throughout the Philadelphia area on assignments. When he’s not working on the holiday, which is often the case, he might be found at Cavanaugh’s Headhouse on South Second Street, near South Street, in Philadelphia. The pub has seven different dining areas to provide its patrons with an assortment of options.

“It has great food, great beer, and a great atmosphere,” Cain said.

Cain is also a fan of McGillin’s Old Ale House at 13th and Drury in Center City, which is considered by many to be the oldest such establishment in the city. It first opened in 1860 and today is a frequent gathering spot for local politicians as well as fans of the city’s professional sports teams.

“Cavanaugh’s and McGillin’s have the green beer flowing continuously (on St. Patrick’s Day),” Cain said.

Dave Sommers, from West Goshen Township, Chester County favors the Stone Tavern 1867 in West Chester.

“It offers a perfect atmosphere,” he said. “Delicious food, great serving staff, and reasonable prices.”

The establishment is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all month. A special Irish-themed menu from Thursday through Saturday of this week features Guinness stew, potato and leek soup, and emerald salad.

MaGerk’s Pub and Grill has established locations in Horsham and Fort Washington in Montgomery County as well as a new location in Lionville in Chester County, plus two locations in Maryland and one in North Carolina

The Horsham location has a head start with its St. Patrick’s Day celebration: The bar area is decorated with green lights.

On Wednesday, WIP Radio will broadcast live all day from the Horsham location which will serve as a prelude to Friday’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities including balloons, face painting, dancers, and of course a band playing Irish music.

“It will be a busy week,” said marketing manager Mary Kate Manzo.

The Fort Washington location will also feature dancers and special music.

JD McGillicuddy’s in Havertown will have a special menu for St. Patrick’s Day, said owner Tom Thornton. It includes Irish beef stew, ham and cabbage, fish and chips, and shepherd’s pie, along with their regular menu and libations.

And it’s not just St. Patrick’s Day but March Madness that patrons are celebrating.

“We have a lot of people who come here to see the NCAA tournament,” he said.  “We can’t fit a live band in here for Irish music. But we’ll have the Irish menu. And we’ll be focused on the NCAA March Madness.”

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DelVal Residents Celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Buckingham Palace may be an ocean away, but that isn’t stopping Delaware Valley residents from celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s extraordinary Platinum Jubilee. She is Great Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, with 70 years on the throne.

The Daughters of the British Empire is preparing to celebrate the landmark occasion. The celebrations on the weekend of June 4-5 will follow traditions established by the queen herself.

“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service,” Queen Elizabeth said in a speech on her 21st birthday (when she was still Princess Elizabeth).

Susan J. Gerrity, national president of the Daughters of the British Empire (DBE), grew up in Manchester, U.K., and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s as part of the “brain drain,” when countless British citizens left in search of better jobs. The Wayne resident has been with the DBE for 40 years and was involved in a variety of roles throughout the years.

“The Daughters of the British Empire was started in about 1909, and that’s why it was called Daughters of the British Empire because at that time, indeed there was a British Empire,” Gerrity told Delaware Valley Journal. “Of course, there is no British Empire now. We have the Commonwealth of Nations.”

It includes 54 countries with Queen Elizabeth being the Titular Head of the Commonwealth. A charitable organization, the DBE’s main goal is to help the elderly. There are eight Chapters in Pennsylvania, with one in Delaware County.

“One of the Chapters which is in Delaware County is called Crown Chapter, and they’re having a very fancy tea on Saturday,” Gerrity said. “That’s June the 4. That will be at St. John’s Church in Glen Mills. It’s open to the public, but it’s totally booked.”

The state DBE is having another event on June 5 that is still open to the public, especially to families and children. It is something that was requested by the queen in a statement.

“We’re following the queen’s guidelines, because she said that June the 4 should be more posh, more formal events,” Gerrity explained. “But June 5 should be for families and neighborhoods and should have informal events. So in England, they’re having street parties. They’re having big long tables and balloons. Everybody will bring a plate of food and they’ll all enjoy things together or they’ll have backyard barbecues.”

Ormiston Mansion

The $25 fee will help cover the cost of the various English drinks that will be served during the tea party, such as Pimms, sherry, champagne, gin and tonic, and of course, tea. In addition to great food and beverages, there will be live music.

“We’ll have a sing-song,” Gerrity added. “I’ve put a bunch of British songs together. It’s a British tradition that we sing songs. We sing a mixture of songs… and we’ll have a band. We have a small band and we have people who will be leading the sing-song. It will be about 45 minutes. It’s just a tradition that English people like to sing. More like a pub sing-song.”

The celebration will be held at the Ormiston Mansion in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia at 2:30 p.m.

“What the DBE has often done, or what I’ve encouraged them to do, is partner with other 501(c)(3) ‘s who have ties with the Commonwealth of Nations,” Gerrity said. “On Saturday we partnered with the Royal Heritage Society who maintain and manage a home in Fairmount Park. It’s one of the old Fairmount mansions and they lease it from the city and they maintain it… They often host British events there. Our DBE in Pennsylvania state board decided to partner with the Royal Heritage Society and have a joint tea but the good thing about partnering with Royal Heritage is that we can have the tea on their lawn. They have several acres around the house in Fairmount Park and they’ve been working on the garden. So we’re going to have tea in the garden on Sunday.”

While the event’s page has been closed, there are still spots available for the tea party on Sunday, June 5. If you’re interested, email Susan Gerrity to reserve your spot.

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