Irish celebration ‘not just about drinking green beer’

SURREY AND WHITE ROCK – Next Tuesday may not be particularly productive for those celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

This year, the Irish holiday falls on a Monday (March 17).

“I think that just gives people an excuse to party twice, first on the weekend and then on Monday,” said Ray Fynes, lead organizer of White Rock’s Irish Festival, a month-long event.

The annual festival was launched in 2013 as a celebration of Irish music, poetry, workshops, contests, food, beverages and more. Complete event details can be found online at

On St. Patrick’s Day, festival events include an outdoor beer garden set up across the street from Jimmy Flynn’s Celtic Snug, at 15065 Marine Dr., White Rock. Entertainers will include Surrey Fire Fighters Pipe and Drum band, Megan Steel Irish Dancers, Brad Hadley and Friends, Vancouver Orphans Male Choir and Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir. Admission is $15.

Also on Monday as part of the festival, Ceili’s Modern Irish Pub in South Surrey will feature the Flanagans, Sionnaine Dancers, Feile Irish Band, Crescent Beach Pipe Band and folk fiddler Nellie Quine.

At Sawbucks Pub, the party will include the Crescent Beach Pipe Band and the Steel School of Irish Dancing.

Elsewhere on Monday, celebrated Irish-Canadian author Patrick Taylor will read from his latest book, The Wily O’Reilly: Irish Country Stories, at the Semiahmoo Arts studio at Centennial Park, starting at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Surrey Museum gets into the act with its annual Celtic Fest, with music, dance and other attractions happening from 1 to 4 p.m. Performers include Cambrian Circle Singers, accordionist Allen Barnett, Gerry Bradley and Sasha Pawluik of the Irish band Small Potatoes, Child of Sunset, White Rock Scottish Country Dance Club and Steel School of Irish Dance.

Later that evening, White Rock Irish Club hosts its annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner and dance at White Rock Elks Hall, with tickets priced at $40 per person.

Also on Saturday, Pat Chessell Band returns to Blue Frog Studios on Johnston Road for an evening of Irish party songs.

On Sunday afternoon starting at 3 p.m., hymns with Irish origins will be sung during an ecumenical hymn-sing event at the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity, 15115 Roper Ave., White Rock.

“I thought up the idea, just to put the saint back in St. Patrick’s Day and remind everybody that it’s not just about drinking green beer,” Fynes said. “And it’s also meant to wave the flag a little bit, that we just don’t sing pub songs, we Irish can also write hymns.”

Later in the festival, a menu from the Titanic will be recreated and served at an event Saturday, March 22 at Aldo’s Karmel Cafe, 15777 Marine Dr., White Rock.

“Titanic has links with Ireland in that she was built in the Belfast shipyard, (and) her last port before heading over the Atlantic was Cobh, Cork,” Fynes noted. “She had 120 Irish passengers on board, of which 35 per cent perished…. My ulterior motive is a little consciousness-raising regarding Irish talents. We built what was the equivalent of the jumbo jet in shipping. In fact, piers had to be reconstructed to accommodate ships like the Titanic.”

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