When Irish Eyes are Smiling - Celebrating St. Pat's in Chicago
by June Watkins
St. Patrick’s Day has always been my favorite holiday. I have often taken a vacation day from work on March 17th just so I can enjoy as many St. Patrick’s Day festivities as possible. I love the happy atmosphere that St. Patrick’s Day brings— the decorations, dressing up in green, listening to Irish music and enjoying corned beef sandwiches with just a wee bit of green beer! St. Patrick’s Day is also the perfect opportunity to celebrate the arrival of spring which everyone in the Midwest looks forward to—especially after a very cold and snowy winter like this one!
I enjoyed many wonderful St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with friends while living in Chicago for 4 years and in Waterloo/Cedar Falls for 33 years. In Chicago, we could watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade along the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue from the windows of my 26th-floor apartment and also see the Chicago River which was dyed green for the celebration.
In Waterloo, I often joined some of my Catholic friends for a lunch of either Irish stew or corned beef & cabbage at the Knights of Columbus before visiting a few establishments offering live Irish music. One of my favorite places, Jameson’s Public House, is located in downtown Waterloo.
In 2007, the owner of Jameson’s, Buck Clark, was instrumental in organizing the very first Iowa Irish Fest which brought a variety of Irish bands to Waterloo for a celebration of Irish heritage. Over the years, the annual event has added more stages and bands, Celtic games, sheep herding and other demonstrations, food and souvenir vendors, etc. until preempted by Covid in 2020. If the luck of the Irish is with me this year, I will once again be enjoying live Irish music from my lawn chair during the first weekend of August in downtown Waterloo.