St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans, Montana style

From whiskey samplings to parades and concerts, Montana celebrates the Irish

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Montana, with its healthy dose of Irish heritage, is no slouch when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Among those paying homage are the Friends of Irish Studies at the University of Montana, who offer a rousing salute to Ireland’s patron saint Saturday, March 12, and a free online concert March 17. In Butte, streets and bars are sure to be packed March 17 when the famous parade returns after a COVID hiatus. Also notable are concerts by the Irish band Dervish in Bozeman and Helena, and a Night at the Brewseum at the historic Moss Mansion in Billings.

In Missoula, the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration begins Saturday, March 12, with a traditional Irish Gaelic Mass, featuring Irish music, hymns and readings, 8 a.m. at St. Francis Xavier Church. Sample fine whiskeys from a 3,000-year tradition of distillation during the Irish whiskey tasting, 2 p.m. at The Rhino.

Pipers, musicians and dancers, including the Celtic Dragons, convene at 3 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Downtown, which also hosts the annual Friends of Irish Studies Banquet and Auction, 6-9:30 p.m.; enjoy Irish food, music, drink and dance while supporting the Irish Studies program at the University of Montana. Unfortunately, the traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade was canceled this year due to construction on the Higgins Ave. Bridge, but organizers promise it will return next year.

At noon March 17, the Friends of Irish Studies join the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Ireland Emigrant Support Program in hosting a free online concert of Irish music. Performers include Nicole Ní Dhúbhshláine & Kyle Mcauley (flute/guitar), Cárthach Ó Faoláin and Antóin Ó Cathail (accordion), Jane Ní Luasa and Máirtín Ó Cathasaigh (song), Muireann Ní Shé (uilleann pipes), Antóin Ó Cathail (accordion), Nada Ní Chuirrín (dance), Helen and Mary Therese Coughlan, Kerry Morse and Maggie Gammons (fiddles), and Imagine Ireland (local musicians).

For a more irreverent approach, visit Monk’s Bar on Ryman for Slayed Patrick’s Day, 9 p.m. March 12. The metal marathon includes music by Walking Corpse Syndrome, blessiddoom and Dashboard Carl, with comedy by James Johnson and Dan Trimble.

In Butte, populated by Irish immigrants beginning in the 1800s, St. Patrick’s Day is a storied celebration. This year’s parade begins at noon and travels through Uptown Butte; check here for the parade route. Montana Tech’s Alumni Coliseum will host a hurling match between Butte’s own Wolfe Tones and Missoula’s Thomas Meagher Hurling Club in an epic battle of Gaelic courage and pride, beginning at 2 p.m. Catch a ride to and from the event aboard the Butte Trolley. The Tiernan Irish Dancers gather with other musicians for Handing Down the Heritage, 6:30 p.m. at the Butte Civic Center.

The Finns reign March 16 with St. Urho’s Day at the Helsinki Bar; doors open at 1 p.m. in honor of the bar’s founder, Erv Niemi. St. Urho’s descendent is crowned at 6 p.m. and the Anaconda AOH Pipes and Drum Corp shows up around 8 p.m.

Mick Moloney and Green Fields of America perform March 18 in Victor.
Mick Moloney and Green Fields of America perform March 18 in Victor.

Dervish sets sail from County Sligo, Ireland, for concerts at 7 p.m. March 15 at The Ellen Theatre in Bozeman and 7:30 p.m. March 16 at The Myrna Loy in Helena. The band was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the BBC, and released the 2019 album, The Great Irish Songbook, to worldwide acclaim. (The album features Steve Earl, Vince Gill, and Abigail Washburn, among a host of Irish stars.) “Dervish are simply brilliant,” writes The Guardian. “They carry Irish history with them.”

Moss Mansion in Billings raises a glass or two to the Irish with A Night at the Brewseum, 6:30-9 p.m. March 17. Irish cocktails are paired with folktales narrated by local actors (don’t miss the Lucky Charm!). Visitors are entertained by leprechauns, limericks and drinking songs as they explore the historic mansion, and top off their evening with a local pint.

Billings hosts a St. Patrick’s Celebration and Celtic Fair, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. March 12 with a parade at 11 a.m., plus music, dancing, art and crafts.

Finally, the Bitterroot Performing Arts Council brings Mick Moloney and Green Fields of America, a renowned quartet of traditional Irish musicians, to the Mary Stuart Rogers Performing Arts Center in Victor for a concert at 8 p.m. March 18.

So let’s don some green, hoist a pint, and for at least a week remember: There are only two kinds of people in the world: the Irish, and those who wish they were.