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


It all starts with the annual McGuire’s Irish Pub Prediction Run.

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

The pub is one big happy stop along a day-long pub crawl that tours the iconic, quirky watering and eatery stops on Pensacola Beach.

Paddy O’Leary’s Irish Pub on Pensacola Beach opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 2000. Be sure to make the Paddy’s stop to watch the spectacle of the annual re-enactment of Finnegan’s Wake. Without spoiling the details, let’s just say it involves a live corpse, a coffin and some Irish whiskey.

This annual pub crawl has a heart as big as the Irish. The Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce donates proceeds from the sale 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.

Meanwhile, in downtown Pensacola, McGuire’s and O’Riley’s Irish Pubs will hold their St. Patty’s Day celebrations too. It’s festive and full of Irish spirit.


Annual Beach Run/Walk for America's Warriors - Flora-Bama Lounge

Then there’s a special event to put a patriotic tilt to a very Irish month. Flora-Bama’s 5th Annual Beach Run/Walk for America's Warriors is a 5K and half marathon run on the sandy shores of Perdido Key and Alabama.

Besides a beach run that’s on the beach? 100% 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.

Schedule: Half Marathon - 7:30 a.m.; 5K - 9 a.m.