For some 27 years, Emerald Isle has had the honor of hosting the first big party of the year – the annual St. Patrick's Festival. It's normally a friendly, quiet beach town with visitors filtering in throughout the year for a week or a weekend at the shore. With a population of about 4,000, it keeps a pretty low profile. But one weekend a year, anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 visitors converge on the Emerald Plantation Shopping Center for one of the east's largest St. Patrick's Day celebrations.
On Friday and Saturday, March 16-17, the party returns with over 80 arts and crafts vendors, amusement rides for the little ones, live music a beer garden and more.
While the festival is great for the local economy during the off-season, it also comes at the perfect time for a pre-season bash, a chance to chase away any cobwebs that may have grown up around our feet as we await the warmth of summer.
So what can you expect? Lots of green, from outlandish hats to polka dot socks, nothing is too silly for the St. Patrick’s Festival. Green tuxedos, flashy glasses, leprechaun costumes, we’ve seen them all through the years.
"With the festival taking place on St. Patrick’s Day this year, there is a little extra excitement amongst the festival organizers," shared Sarah Cutillo with the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Dept. "We are wrapping up vendor assignments and almost everything has been confirmed for a successful day. The rides will once again be open on Friday evening which is when we see a lot of the local children come out. We are excited for another fun-filled event!"
The Friday preview has been so popular that organizers are doing it again this year. Folks will have a chance to purchase an armband for $15 and take unlimited rides from 5 to 10pm on the eve of the big festival. It's not until Saturday, however, that things kick in to high gear with all vendors present and accounted for from 9am to 6pm and a full slate of live music throughout the day.
If green is the fashion color for the day, then festive is certainly the theme. There is plenty to keep everyone busy throughout the day-long party. One of the rules from the early days is still followed today – everything sold at the festival is handmade or hand authenticated. From handmade jewelry and original artwork to wood crafts and hair bows, vendors lined up for the event have been hand picked to ensure a wide variety of options. In keeping with its early philosophy, no commercial vendors are allowed. The same rings true for the bountiful food options offered throughout the day, including, of course, plenty of corned beef and cabbage.
Live music provides a soundtrack for the day, with acts covering all genres of music. Be sure to be on the lookout for the Port City Pipes & Drums parading through the festival. Need a spot to rest? Swing by the Shamrock Stop for a place to sit and eat or simply rest your feet for a spell.
Entrance and parking are always free. Costumes and greenery are encouraged!