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Local Irish like to keep St. Patrick’s Day special

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
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North Greenbush residents Loretta White and Kathy Palmer enjoy a pre-lunchtime drink at Katie O'Byrnes on Erie Blvd on Monday morning, St. Patrick's Day.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
North Greenbush residents Loretta White and Kathy Palmer enjoy a pre-lunchtime drink at Katie O'Byrnes on Erie Blvd on Monday morning, St. Patrick's Day.

— A great day for the Irish meant a great day off for Loretta White.

White and her friend, Kathy Palmer, both of North Greenbush, on Monday spent part of their St. Patrick’s Day at Katie O’Byrne’s restaurant in downtown Schenectady. White, who works locally as a nurse, decided to take a vacation day and celebrate her Irish heritage.

“They’re just going to have to do without me today,” she said, wearing a smile and a sequined cap of green, orange and white — the colors of Ireland’s national flag.

Other Capital Region residents took afternoon breaks for corned beef lunches and pints of Guinness as a long St. Patrick’s Day weekend that began Saturday with parades and block parties came to an end.

Celtic faithful were at several tables inside O’Byrne’s by 11:15 a.m., preparing for

noontime entertainment by the Frank Jaklitsch quartet. White was glad for the company.

“The Northeast is the only place that does it,” she said of the annual mid-March celebrations. “My sister lives in Missouri and they don’t even wear green.”

The women began their day with a service at St. Ambrose Church in Latham and were planning an afternoon stop at Revolution Hall in Troy. Palmer, in a green Ireland sweatshirt, watched her friend sip a bloody Mary. “I’m the designated driver,” she said. “I’m having coffee, but it’s straight.”

Ken and Reina Merkelbach of Albany, also in emerald raiment, were other lunch early birds. They were waiting for another couple and glad to be out on St. Patrick’s Day. “We want to be where the action is,” Reina Merkelbach said.

At Schenectady’s Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) Hall on State Street, chefs were ready for both the afternoon and evening rushes. Jackie Clute, state secretary for the Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians and historian for the local chapter (John F. Kennedy Division 1), said 150 pounds of corned beef brisket had been prepared. There were plenty of extras — 130 pounds of deli corned beef round (for sandwiches); 150 pounds of cabbage; 100 pounds of red potatoes; and 40 pounds of baby carrots.

Clute said the St. Patrick’s Day gathering is one of the few times in the year when the hall opens its doors to nonmembers. “This is a chance for us to let them know who we are,” she said.

While many people may have made their St. Patrick’s Day toasts on Saturday or Sunday, Joe Osborne believes in observances on March 17.

“To us, it’s important to celebrate it on the day of,” said Osborne, president of the AOH men’s division. “It’s a matter of tradition. To us, it’s an important holiday.”

Gary Stanton of Schenectady wore an oversized green foam hat and held a Budweiser draft at the City Squire restaurant on Keyes Avenue. Stanton, a chef at the Union Cafe, said he likes to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every day of the year.

“My grandmother’s name was Mary O’Flynn — that should tell you something right there,” Stanton said. “It’s the spirit of the day, the luck of the Irish. If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough.”

Kathy Olesko, who co-owns the City Squire, said St. Patrick’s Day is busier when it falls on a weekend. “Last year, when it was on Sunday, at 10:30, 11 a.m., the bar was filled,” she said.

At Stoney’s Irish Grill on Van Vranken Avenue, the lunch crowd was just beginning around noon.

“Every table is booked three times between now and 8 p.m.,” said owner Mike Bennett. “So we’re going to be busy.”

Bennett says bigger business comes when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday. People will take off a half-day from work, and begin their weekend with friends and Irish foods. “People don’t take half-days off on Monday,” he said.

The bar at Maloney’s Pub on upper State Street was lively at 3 p.m. Chuck Maloney, who owns the tavern with his wife, Mary Ann, said his Sunday St. Patrick’s Day party was not enough. “We’re still doing everything tonight [Monday],” he said. “You’ve got to do it on the traditional day.”

Patty Fox of Schenectady, dressed in a plush green hat and green beads, appreciated the double-header. She was one of seven friends in Maloney’s celebrating a friend’s birthday. They took a limousine to the tavern and planned to take taxicabs for any other stops.

“I’m Irish and Scottish,” Fox said. “Just celebrating my heritage.”

 
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