ShamROCK in Gaslamp Quarter compliments Irish Congress parade and program in Balboa Park
By Dave Fidlin with Anthony King | Downtown News
St. Patrick’s Day comes once a year, but two local organizations work year-round to ensure San Diego’s festivities are enjoyed by spectators ready to immerse themselves in Irish culture.
Downtown’s shamROCK festival is now in its 17th year, and organizers said they are pulling out all the stops for this year’s celebration. The festival, taking place from 2 p.m. to midnight in the Gaslamp District, is presented by Jameson Irish Whisky and The Field.
Benefitting the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation, shamROCK organizers will be recreating a 150-foot Irish Pub outdoors and laying down over 80,000 square feet of green Astroturf. In a press release for the event, organizers said they intend to “transform the Gaslamp Quarter into an urban… version of the rolling hills of Ireland.”
Organizers are expecting over 20,000 people, and said previous years have sold out. Located on Sixth Avenue between E and G streets, the event will feature three separate stages of live entertainment. Bands include the Young Dubliners, Irish Rock and Irish Punk Rock, among others.
Earlier in the day, the Irish Congress of Southern California is presenting its St. Patrick’s Day program in Balboa Park. Now in its 32nd year, the event kicks off at 10 a.m. with a flag-raising ceremony followed by the organization’s annual parade.
The Irish Congress’s flag-raising ceremony will be held at Sixth Avenue and Juniper Street. The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m., starting at the flag-raising location. It will then travel north on Fifth Avenue to Upas Street, east to Sixth Avenue, south on Sixth Avenue and will end back at Juniper Street. A festival in Balboa Park follows.
Tony Mande serves as the chairperson of this year’s parade and has been part of the volunteer-driven Irish Congress’s efforts for 12 years. Mande said the parade pays homage to Irish history and customs, some of which have been misunderstood in America.
“We’re here to celebrate the spirit of the country and, basically, to educate and honor the history and traditions of the Irish people,” Mande said. “Everyone’s aware of the Irish, but this is a chance to let people know about their rich heritage.”
Mande, who has traveled to Ireland, said people in the United States have fabricated some of the country’s customs over time. For example, Mande said he has never come across a pint of green beer in his visits to pubs in Ireland, a common practice in the United States on St. Patrick’s Day.
Colleen Murphy, who serves as the Irish Congress’s board chairperson, said she has witnessed the organization’s dedication first-hand in her nearly 30 years of involvement.
“This really is a purely volunteer-driven effort,” Murphy said. “We receive no grant money and no funding from the city of San Diego. All of the money [to put the program on] comes from fundraising.”
On the day of the event, Murphy said between 140 and 170 volunteers contribute through a variety of ways, including volunteering as a parade marshal, vendor, judge, announcer or server at the beer garden.
“There’s a small core of dedicated people who really care about this event,” Murphy said. “The great thing is, we all get along and are very passionate about what we do. Everyone loves a good parade, and this one has always been a blast.”
The St. Patrick’s Day parade and festival technically is the only event the Irish Congress of Southern California puts on; but organizers work collaboratively with a number of other related organizations on events throughout the year.
“We’re looking to become an organization that makes ourselves available to other organizations [and] to serve as a resource,” Murphy said. “We started small, but we’ve evolved over time. It’s been exciting to see.”
The Irish Congress’s festival in Balboa Park is free and open to the public. In the Gaslamp Quarter, shamROCK festival wristbands start at $35. The Downtown festival is a 21 and over event. Several Downtown bars and clubs will be offering discounts for shamROCK participants, including Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar and Jimmy Love’s, among others.
More information about the shamROCK festival and tickets for the event can be found at sandiegoshamrock.com or by calling (619) 233-5008.