For 25 years there has been one sure sign that spring is on its way to the Crystal Coast – the Emerald Isle St. Patrick’s Festival. The first big party of the year, this annual undertaking draws more than 25,000 revelers to the small family-oriented community for a day of green-splattered fun. And this year promises to be bigger than ever before.
In honor of its 25th anniversary, the festival won’t wait until Saturday to get things started. Instead, this year’s event runs for two days – Friday and Saturday, March 11-12 – and includes rides and a musical performance on Friday night. Vendors won’t open their booths until Saturday morning, explained organizers, however, those who attend on Friday night will be given the chance to purchase an unlimited ride armband, riding as many times as they want throughout the evening for a set rate.
“The Emerald Isle St Patrick’s Festival is our signature event of the year and this year marks our 25th. We’re grateful to our sponsors for helping us launch the event to jump start the shoulder season for our community and visitors,” said Alesia Sanderson, festival director. “It’s always exciting to bring our residents and visitors this great event that has become a boost to our local economy as we come out of the long winter months.”
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.
If green is the color of choice for the day, then festive is certainly the theme. From amusement rides to live music, 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 face painting 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.
“Planning for the next St. Patrick’s Festival begins as we are wrapping up the last one,” said Co-Director Sarah Cutillo. “Every moment is worth it, though. Walking around the festival site on the big day gives me chills to know the effort that was put forth to make it happen. Not just from the festival coordinators, but the staff, volunteers, sponsors and vendors who all come together to boost our community up in the shoulder season!”
While rides, food and fun take center stage, a full schedule of live entertainment gives folks the perfect chance to kick up their heels. The popular Little Mr. and Miss Leprechaun Contest kicks off the day at 9am. Both boys and girls age 2-3 and 4-5 will be judged on the originality and creativity of their costume and overall stage presentation. Preregistration is required by Thursday, March 10, by filling out a form at Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation or visiting www.emeraldislestpatricksfestival.com. Because the festival will be busy, no registration can be handled that morning.
The youngsters warm up the crowd, however, a collection of live music is lined up throughout the day. Guests can expect to see 4EverAll, Heritage, Spare Change, Justin Castellano and more. Be sure to be on the lookout for the Port City Pipes & Drums parading around the festival throughout the day.
The beer garden, hosted by the Emerald Isle Business Association and Coastal Beverage, will be open from 9am-6pm. In addition, those looking for something to sate their appetite will find an array of festival fare, including traditional corned beef and cabbage.
Entrance to the festival and parking, as always, is free. To learn more about the St. Patrick’s celebration, call 252-354-6350 or visit www.emeraldislestpatricksfestival.com.