Get Your Green On, Fox Cities!

Forget what Kermit the Frog said.

It is easy being green – especially on St. Patrick’s Day.

We’ve plowed through the worst part of another brutal Wisconsin winter and March has arrived. That alone is reason to celebrate, and St. Patrick’s Day gives us another good reason to party.

St. Patrick’s Day will be observed as usual on March 17: the day the patron saint of Ireland died. It is a national holiday in Ireland and celebrated festively across the United States with Irish-themed food, drink, and music.

So, who exactly was St. Patrick? Most identify him as the one who drove the snakes out of Ireland. That story may (or may not) have some validity, but his religious contributions were far more significant. St. Patrick was a fifth-century missionary and bishop who was one of the first to bring Christianity to Ireland.

What’s interesting about St. Patrick is that he wasn’t Irish or even a Patrick. His birth name was Maewyn Sucat and he was of Roman descent. He grew up in Great Britain in a wealthy family before being enslaved in Ireland for six years after being captured by Irish marauders as a teen. He eventually escaped, found his way back to Great Britain and was ordained as a bishop. He returned to Ireland in 433 A.D. where he began to build churches and spread the word of Christianity. St. Patrick died in 461 at the age of 74.

Countless stories and legends about St. Patrick have emerged over the years such as his snake-slaying abilities. Art pieces from that time depict St. Patrick trampling on the serpents, validating the belief that he used a staff to herd the venomous reptiles – considered to be symbols of evil – into the sea. 

Wearing green attire is the easy choice on St. Patrick’s Day. Green is the color of the shamrock – the three-leaf clover that St. Patrick used to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans. The color is also linked to the Irish independent movement of the late 18th century. Oh, and don’t forget that wearing green supposedly makes you invisible to leprechauns, those mischievous little pranksters who will pinch anything they see on St. Patrick’s Day.

Don’t even think about celebrating St. Paddy’s Day with a pizza. Corned beef and cabbage should be your go-to meal. Surprisingly, the dish has American origins. Irish immigrants settling in the United States in the late 19th century often made corned beef a frequent meal due its low cost and paired it with cabbage, the cheapest vegetable available. 

Many area restaurants offer boatloads of corned beef and cabbage during St. Patrick’s week. If you want to cook it yourself, take your sweet time.

“It takes time to cook,” said Luke Jacobs, owner of Jacobs Meat Market. “It’s not something you can cook on a whim. I don’t think you can cook it too long. If you have enough water, it’s not going to dry out. Undercooking it, though, is something you won’t be a fan of.” 

Jacobs sells an estimated 1,200 pounds of corned beef during the week of St. Patrick’s Day. It also offers corned beef brisket, brats, and lunch meat, along with prepared corned beef and cabbage to-go dinners.

“If you’re not having a huge gathering and don’t have all day to cook, a corned beef and cabbage brat is like having St. Patrick’s Day in your mouth,” Jacobs said. “Just fire up the grill and you can have it done in no time.”

While corned beef consumption covers the feasting aspect, drinking, dancing, and listening to Irish music are also huge parts of the holiday. Practically every Wisconsin bar has a celebration either on St. Patrick’s Day or during the week. Some are planning bashes the Saturday before St. Paddy’s Day (March 12) or the Saturday after (March 19).

Guinness – a dry stout with roots going back to 1759 at the brewery of Arthur Guinness in Dublin – is the clear-cut No. 1 beverage on St. Pat’s Day. But if Guinness doesn’t do it for you, try a Smithwick’s Red Ale, a Murphy’s Irish Stout, a Killian’s Red Ale, or a Harp Lager. Looking for a non-beer alternative? Go with one of my personal favorites: a Nutty Irishman, which combines Bailey’s Irish Crème liquor with hazelnut and Irish whiskey. 

New London – make that New Dublin – should be your destination if you really want to do it right on this party-hearty holiday. New Dublin is New London’s temporary name for the entire week of St. Patrick’s Day. This small Outagamie and Waupaca County town goes all out with six days of Irish-related festivities, ranging from a traditional Irish ceili (a social gathering) to the Grand Parade and Irish Fest on Saturday, March 19.

The Grand Parade – which starts at 1 p.m. – is billed as Wisconsin’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade with over 100 units including marching and bagpipe bands. Look for the Irish wake parody – Finnegan’s Wake – which features melodramatic weeping mourners and is often the hit of the annual parade.

Irish Fest runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. inside a large, heated tent in the Festival Foods parking lot. Three Celtic-style bands will entertain party goers: Sheamus Fitzpatrick and the McNally Boys from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Tallymoore (1-2:30 p.m) and The Scrubbers (3-6 p.m.) Irish food, beverages, merchandise, and apparel are available, and you can even pick up a kilt. The admission fee is a mere $5.

Corned beef and cabbage will be served all week at New London restaurants like Pup’s Irish Pub, Pine Tree Supper Club, Crystal Falls, The Waters, Hilby’s, and the Family Diner. 

Appleton doesn’t have an actual St. Patrick’s Day parade, but there are parties galore at various restaurants and bars.

Mark’s East Side always has a major St. Paddy’s bash and that won’t change despite new ownership. Alex Shea, a long-time chef at the restaurant, recently purchased the business from Mark Dougherty and says the tradition will continue.

“We’re an Irish-themed restaurant – that’s part of the culture here,” said Shea. “It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun. We have a lot of people who spend the majority of the day here just hanging out and enjoying good fellowship.”

Mark’s will offer Irish-themed specials Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday during the week of St. Patrick’s Day with plenty of corned beef and cabbage, Irish drinks, and Guinness available.

“You’re also going to see a live leprechaun running around the restaurant,” joked Shea, referring to Dougherty.

Mark’s will offer live music on St. Paddy’s Day, including Sheamus Fitzpatrick and the McNally Boys at 7 p.m.

Shea estimates that Mark’s typically goes through roughly 2,500 pounds of corned beef during the week of St. Patrick’s Day.

“We know what it takes to gear up for this,” Shea said. “There’s a lot of little stuff to do, like making sure enough horseradish is made and that we’ve ordered enough potatoes and carrots and are getting them peeled. It’s right up there with New Year’s Eve for our biggest day of the year.”

Mark’s will have lots of competition, because countless local bars and restaurants will also be getting their green on. McGuinness Irish Pub is Appleton’s most authentic Irish bar and offers a week-long celebration. Live music will be featured at a couple of tent parties planned for March 12 and March 19.  In addition, there is usually live entertainment on St. Patrick’s Day.

But even without music, it’s hard to spend two minutes at McGuinness without feeling an Irish vibe.

“Every day is St. Patrick’s Day at McGuinness,” said bar owner Matt Miller. “We like to introduce the Irish culture and heritage and incorporate them into people’s lives. But we don’t do crazy stuff. We don’t do green beer.”

The reason is that green beer isn’t tied to Irish tradition. 

“We stick to traditional Irish things,” Miller said. “Everyone wants to be Irish on St. Paddy’s Day, so why not come to an authentic Irish pub? We’ll put a tent out on the patio, bring in bands, dancers, and bagpipers and all sorts of fun stuff.”

Spats is another popular downtown Appleton bar that goes all in during St. Patrick’s Day week. Corned beef and cabbage will be served for much of the week along with Guinness Irish lamb stew and Irish cloud torte. 

“It’s one of our busiest weeks all year and something our customers really look forward to,” said Spats owner Brianna Kapheim. “As new owners, people ask us if we’re going to keep up the St. Paddy’s celebration and we’re like, ‘Oh yeah.’’’

The Durty Leprechaun and McFleshman’s are additional downtown Appleton bars known for their fun-filled St. Paddy’s Day parties. Even places not linked to Irish culture like Cleo’s Brown Beam Tavern and Michiels Bar and Restaurant will do it up big on St. Paddy’s Day.

Cleo’s – considered to be one of Appleton’s iconic bars – will have Irish whiskey specials on St. Paddy’s Day and at least one of their bartenders will be dressed in a kilt.

“We’re a cocktail place and will have some great shots and cocktails,” said Cleo’s manager Rachel Paul. “Shots of Jameson always go over real big on St. Patrick’s Day along with drinks like an Irish Mule and a Jameson Pancake – anything that involves Irish whiskey. Last year, we offered a Jameson Old Fashioned and we ended up keeping it as a regular drink because it was so popular.”

“It’s always a really busy day for us. Everyone seems to come out. How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Wisconsin without drinking and eating corned beef?”

Michiels will be serving corned beef and cabbage the entire week and will likely offer live music.

“People are always looking for some good corned beef and cabbage around St. Patrick’s Day,” said Michiels owner Jennifer Michiels. “Ours is made from scratch and with a lot of love. We’ve been using a special recipe for years. The way you slice it makes all the difference in the world. You have to cut it the right way or you can ruin it.”

The Best Western Premier Bridgewood Hotel in Neenah will also stick with tradition by offering its annual O’Batley Party – hosted by owner Richard Batley. The party date hadn’t been finalized at press time, but it will be posted on the Bridgewood’s Facebook page.

“We’ll have corned beef and cabbage specials, music, bingo, green beer, and our entire staff will be dressed up,” said James Bellmore, manager at Bridgewood. “It’s always a really good time.”

Emmett’s in Appleton will host its usual St. Patrick’s Day party and prize giveaway on March 17. The event always draws a big crowd and Emmett’s uses a huge Plinko board and spinning wheel to give away hundreds of prizes, including a trip to Las Vegas. 

Meanwhile, Appleton Beer Factory will have live music on St. Paddy’s Day, with the high-energy Celtic rock band Roving Scallywags performing, starting at 6 p.m.

For the exact dates and times of live music, check out the websites and Facebook pages of local bars and restaurants.