Irish and beach celebrations march into spring
If you can run, walk or pub crawl, you can find your Irish celebration in the Pensacola area without all those Blarney Stones.
We are a long way from the Emerald Isle, but our coastal bergs along Pensacola Bay are brimming with emerald green waters, smiling eyes and more than a few places to dance a jig.
That’s why St. Patrick’s Week is special here. The floats and beads from Mardi Gras are long gone, replaced by a pulsating groundswell of people parades. We have the nation’s largest Prediction Run/bouncing street party and a beach-flavored Irish pub crawl that could just about set an Uber driver up for retirement.
The McGuire’s Irish Pub 5K Prediction Run
This annual event has been a Pensacola tradition, a ritual even, for more than 40 years.
It’s a run, technically. More than 15,000 folks will line up at the starting line at McGuire’s Irish Pub, accompanied by the sound of the McGuire’s Irish Bagpipe band. Those who actually run, wearing short shorts of breathable fabrics, will dart away and leave behind the rest of us.
When the bagpipes play and a cannon sounds to start, thousands of suddenly Irish citizens, many wearing kilts, leprechaun costumes or green tutu’s — sometimes all at the same time, will surge, sway and swagger around Pensacola’s bayfront and historic downtown.
It’s a walking, running parade/street party, with plenty of unofficial pit stops and non-hydrating refreshment stops. Platoons of Marines, Navy and Air Force trainees run in formation, providing a cadence and the town’s military roots.
Ah, the Prediction Run. What is it? That means you pick your time when you register. So if someone in a Stormtrooper costume wearing a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish-ish” t-shirt hits all the stops and picks a time of 45:03, and hits it … winner!
But really, this is the one race where what happens on the course is an after-thought. It’s a Saturday-long street party that will bring out the Irish in all of us.
My favorite part? Catching the Irish Bagpipe Band team up with the pub’s musician Rich McDuff to perform a rousing rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
Go Irish on the Island St. Patrick’s Day Beach Pub Crawl
Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, rain or shine, a daylong pub-crawl takes place on Pensacola Beach where hundreds of people, in a large sea of green, tour a dozen of the iconic and quirky watering holes and eatery stops along the island. Each stop lasts approximately 45 minutes, then the crowd is on to the next bar or restaurant.
There is plenty of green beer and Irish whiskey to partake along the way. The goal is to make it to all 12 stops and still be standing.
This annual pub-crawl has a heart as big as the Irish. The Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce donates proceeds from the sales of pub-crawl t-shirts to benefit Covenant Care. The t-shirts are available at each of the stops and the Visitor Information Center on Pensacola Beach.
In addition to the pub-crawl, Paddy O’Leary’s Irish Pub on Pensacola Beach presents a daylong celebration including live music inside and outside, a reenactment of Tim Finnegan’s Wake and even appearances by St. Patrick himself, into the wee hours.
Back in town, O’Riley’s Irish Pub is well known for its own St. Patrick’s Day blowouts at its two locations, downtown and 321 Palafox Place and “uptown” at O’Riley’s Uptown Tavern, 3728 Creighton Road.
Annual Beach Run/Walk for America's Warriors - Flora-Bama Lounge
Then there’s a special event in late March to put a patriotic tilt to a very Irish month. Flora-Bama’s Annual Beach Run/Walk for America's Warriors is a 5K and half-marathon run on the sandy shores of Perdido Key at the state line with Alabama.
Why is this race so special? 100 percent of the registration fees go to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The Foundation provides full scholarship grants, as well as educational and family counseling, to the surviving children of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel who lose their lives in the line of duty. It also provides immediate financial assistance for severely wounded special operations personnel and their families.
The Flora-Bama holds a big celebratory after-party following the race with a great selection of food, beer and live entertainment – specifically to thank our military families. It’s a great way to give back to those who gave their all for our country.