Metro Detroit trots out the green for St. Patrick's Day

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

For dedicated partygoers, St. Patrick's Day started before dawn on Tuesday as some Metro Detroit bars opened their doors early.

Around two dozen people gathered outside Old Shillelagh in Detroit before the bar opened at 7 a.m. Once inside, early bird partyers were treated to drinks, live music and breakfast.

"You don't get to hear the traditional Irish music at a lot of the local bars," Farmington resident Amy Bolda said.

Bolda, 38, said she was at the bar with her friend, who knows the singer of Black Mist, the band performing early Tuesday.

"It's not just about the drinking," she said. "It's about getting to know the tradition and people's heritage."

Old Shillelagh manager Angela Williams, whose cousin is the owner, said they've been opening at 7 a.m. on St. Patrick's Day since her grandfather opened the bar in 1975.

The bar also is hosting its 24th annual tent party Tuesday after festivities started Saturday.

"We're the ones that coined 'St. Practice Day,'" said Williams of the Saturday event. "I swear we should have trademarked that."

Cousins Cary Sherrill of Harrison Township and Jeff Morris of Troy said they have been celebrating St. Patrick's Day at Old Shillelagh for about five years.

Sherrill, who currently works in Kansas City, said there was "no chance" he would let distance prevent the tradition from continuing.

"I took a week off work and took a special flight out here," he said.

Both men said they look forward to more than just festive drinks on Tuesday.

"It's the music and the pounding on tables," Sherrill said. "We'll be out as long as we can handle it."

O'Mara's Restaurant in Berkley opened at 8 a.m. Tuesday for breakfast, where a small crowd gathered before the big rush that was expected later in the day, said manager Lewis Sawyer.

"We do something kind of unique here," said Sawyer, who was sporting short green hair on Tuesday. "We have four bands and it's presold."

The bands will play sets from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., with tickets sold separately for each show, Sawyer said.

"We empty the room after each show and fill it with new people," Sawyer said.

O'Mara's has been open 21 years and has been celebrating St. Patrick's Day with ticketed shows for about 10 years, Sawyer said.

The tickets go on sale in early February and typically sell out by the weekend before the holiday.

"Some people have said this is the most civilized St. Patrick's Day," he said. "You're not standing around in a tent somewhere with college kids throwing up on your shoes."

In Detroit's Corktown, the celebration was relatively mellow compared to Sunday's bash during the St. Patrick's Parade down Michigan.

There were pockets of activity, though, mainly at the Gaelic League of Detroit, McShane's Irish Pub & Whiskey Bar, O'Blivions Corktown Cafe and Nemo's Bar, where there was a bit of a line out the door to get in. Some stragglers in green made it as far down the strip as PJ's Lager House and elsewhere in the historic neighborhood.

Jessica Stano came from Windsor with friends to bar-hop in the area.

"Compared to Canada it's very packed, it's a better vibe here," said the Canadian, who was decked out with green beads and green shamrock stickers on her face.

Inside the Gaelic League, folks of all ages enjoyed live music from Larry Larson and Terry Murphy, two acoustic musicians who regularly perform at the League separately, but play a set together each St. Patrick's Day.

Pat Dowe of Midland was wearing a kilt and drinking a Guinness as he watched the pair perform.

"We went to the Lager House, we were in Westland ... I'm just drinking and having fun with family," he said, adding that he thinks the crowds are smaller than in years past because St. Patrick's Day fell on a Tuesday this year. "It's slow; it's usually really packed."

Watching the revelers was Julie Fries from Beverly Hills. She said she starts out her St. Patrick's Day the same way each year.

"It's my tradition to go to Mass at Most Holy Trinity," she said. "And now I'm here at the Gaelic League, and later I'm going to go home and watch (Irish singer) Daniel O'Donnell."

Melody Baetens contributed.