Salt Lake City boasts the longest-running St. Patrick’s Day parade in the western United States — but the city hasn’t seen that parade since 2019.
“Our primary COVID strategy has been to wait,” said Sean Clark, president of the Hibernian Society of Utah, the civic group that organizes Salt Lake City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and the siamsa (pronounced “sham-suh”) — a gathering of vendors, food and performances — that follows the parade.
In 2020 and 2021, the society canceled the parade because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and last year held a virtual siamsa streamed from Judge Memorial High School’s auditorium.
Clark said his group was ready to cancel the 2022 parade if COVID case counts didn’t decrease. But the case numbers have gotten “better, and better, and better,” he said — so the Hibernian society is eagerly proceeding with its plans for the parade, which returns to The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 12, starting at 11 a.m.
The parade — considered the city’s third largest, behind the Days of ‘47 Parade in July and the Pride Parade in June — will begin at 200 South and 600 West, goes east to Rio Grande St., turns north onto Rio Grande through The Gateway, to 50 North, and ends at 50 North and 400 West.
The Gateway, Clark said, is “just the coolest place to have a parade. You get people on both levels, and it just adds to the boisterous fun of it.”
The siamsa will be staged at the end of the parade, in The Gateway’s Olympic Legacy Plaza. The idea, Clark said, was to give the crowd a place to mingle after the parade, and give easy access to the entertainment and food at the siamsa.
The siamsa runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a parade ceremony scheduled for 4 p.m, and the closing ceremony — with a crowd sing-along of “The Parting Glass,” a traditional Scottish song also sung widely in Ireland, particularly at wakes — at 5 p.m.
The parade’s theme, “New Beginnings,” is a holdover from the 2020 parade that didn’t happen.
“It centers on the Irish enduring famine and persecution and starting new lives,” Clark said, “but it’s also relevant because we’ve all endured this pandemic, and now we’re starting new, and we’re together again with a newfound appreciation for what that means.”
Utah families of Irish heritage often march in the parade carrying banners, Clark said, adding, “my family will always build a float. … You’re going to see marching bands, you’re going to see pipers, you’re going to see groups of dog owners, you’ll see communities of friends. Sometimes a bar will put something together.”
For the first time in the parade’s history, which dates back to 1978, beer will be available for purchase along the route. The parade committee consulted with the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to arrange for beer sales along Rio Grande St. — after the Hibernian society hired more security, and added entrances and exits to and from the parade route to make sure everything was legal.
Clark emphasized that, beer aside, “this is a party we want to appeal to all ages, families and grandparents and kids.” He noted that the siamsa will feature a face painter, chalk art, and craft tables for children. Also, the Discovery Gateway children’s museum will offer $1 off entry for anyone wearing green, and will offer St. Patrick’s Day-themed activities. “So, a lot of fun things for kids to do at the parade,” he said.
Performers on the siamsa’s main stage in Olympic Legacy Plaza include Pladdohg, Rinceoiri Don Spraoi, Murphy and the Giant, Shanahy and An Rogaire Dubh. On the Judge Memorial stage on 100 South, performers include Young Publiners and Legacy Irish Dance. The Scariff School of Irish Dance, Smith Irish Dance and Harp Irish Dance will perform on both stages.
Bars and restaurants at Gateway will be catering to St. Patrick’s crowds, including brunches and drink specials at Hall Pass and Flanker Kitchen + Sporting Club.
There will also be an indoor area during the parade and siamsa in the Grand Hall, in the old Union Pacific station, “which is terrific, because it has special significance to the Irish, being a railroad station — a lot of Irish families came through here to work on the railroad,” Clark said.
Just to the west of the Union Pacific station, the family of John Francis Welsh — one of the founders of the Hibernian Society, who died the day after the canceled 2020 parade would have been held — will host a memorial bar, “complete with a life-sized cutout of the man himself,” Clark said.
“I know he would be pleased with that,” Clark said. “John’s children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews will be serving at the bar in memory of John, and honoring his passion for the Hibernian Society and keeping Irish culture and heritage alive in Utah. … This is our chance to celebrate him and many others we have lost over the last couple years.”
With some people still hesitant to gather in large groups, and others eager to put the pandemic behind them, Clark said he’s curious to see how many people will attend the parade and the siamsa. No matter the numbers, he said, it’s important for people to get back together in physical space.
“It’s something we need as human beings,” Clark said. “I think of my childhood, and having that every year, and my kids missing that for a couple of years of their childhood, which is so short, you know? I’m excited for myself, but I’m also excited for my kids, and their friends, and their cousins to be together, and celebrate their Irish heritage.”
Where to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
The St. Patrick’s Day parade and siamsa aren’t the only celebrations of Irish heritage happening in Utah between now and the day itself — Thursday, March 17. Here are what some of the state’s restaurants and drinking establishments are offering:
Bewilder Brewing • 445 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City; 385-528-3840; bewilderbrewing.com
• The brewpub is introducing three new beers — Irish Stout, Irish Lager, and Leprechaun Tears — on March 17, and will have an Irish-themed menu for the day. Parties of 10+ should call ahead to make a reservation.
Church & State • 358 S. 300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-901-0459; eventbrite.com/e/st-pattys-day-irish-cocktails-tickets-267185508047.
• Cocktail Collective leads St. Paddy’s Day Irish Cocktails, a workshop where you’ll make a classic Irish cocktail and an Irish-inspired craft cocktail while playing trivia and listening to Irish folktales. $55, 6 p.m., Thursday, March 17.
Duffy’s Tavern • 932 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, 801-355-6401, facebook.com/DuffysTavernSLC.
• St. Patrick’s Day specials include an Irish breakfast shot for $6.50, Irish Car Bombs for $8, Ruben sandwiches for $8, Pastrami and Swiss and Corned Beef and Swiss for $6.
Flanagan’s on Main • 438 Main St., Park City, 435-649-8600, flanagansonmain.com.
• On March 14-17, there will be live Irish music from noon to 1 a.m., green beer and happy hour giveaways for Apple AirPods, TVs, snowboards and speakers. Doors open at 11 a.m., and the kitchen closes at 11 pm.
Flanker Kitchen + Sporting Club • 6 N. Rio Grande St., Suite 35, Salt Lake City; 801-683-7070; flankerslc.com.
• In addition to a “Green Eggs and Ham” brunch served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 12 and 13, Flanker will have a special Irish menu on St. Patrick’s Day, including Guiness cheddar dip with pretzels and cottage pie.
Gracie’s • 326 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City; 801-819-7565; graciesslc.com.
• Tents will be set up in the parking lot with vendors and live music on Saturday, March 12, from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Drink specials will be available inside at the bar.
The Green Pig • 31 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City; 801-532-7441; thegreenpigpub.com
• The pub celebrates St. Paddy’s on Saturday, March 12, and Thursday, March 17. On parade day, the pub will have music from noon to 1 a.m. and an Irish menu. On St. Patrick’s Day proper, they will feature Irish music and an Irish menu, featuring a corned beef and cabbage special.
O’Shucks Bar • 22 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City; 801-359-6770; oshucks-ahhsushi.com.
• On Saturday, March 12, drink specials include $6 Jameson, $4 green beer (domestic pours), $10 Irish car bombs, $7 Irish breakfast shots and $8 Irish breakfast shots with bacon. On Thursday, March 17, those drink specials return, with bagpipers playing throughout the day.
Piper Down • 1492 S State St., Salt Lake City; 801-468-1492; piperdown.hrpos.heartland.us/menu.
• Friday, March 11, is “St. Practice Day,” with a performance by Murphy & The Giants. On Saturday, March 12, Folk Hogan performs. On Saturday, March 17, the bar has an all-day celebration planned with Irish-themed drinks, a smoked corned beef special and live music from noon to 1 a.m. — bands performing include Murphy & the Giant, Swagger, David Burchfield & the Fire Guild, Red Headed Step Twins and the Heathen Highlanders. Free before noon, $10 cover before 5 p.m., $20 cover after 5 p.m.
Prohibition • 151 E. 6100 South, Murray; 801-281-4852; prohibitionutah.com.
• The bar has a three-day St. Patrick’s Day celebration planned, Thursday through Saturday, March 17-19. All three days will feature Irish-themed cocktails and food. Burlesque performances are scheduled at 7:30, 9:30 and 11:15 p.m. each night, and bagpipers perform at 8:30 p.m. $10 cover at the door.
Scooter’s Coffee • 1871 W 5300 South, Roy; 801-820-5091; or 1136 W. 2700 North, Pleasant View, 385-206-8595; Scooterscoffee.com.
• Throughout the month of March, the coffee chain will offer food and drink specials, including a mint-flavored Lucky Leprechaun, a butterscotch Pot O’ Gold latte, min chocolate chip cookies and red velvet cake bites.