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Hibernian Rhapsody 

Head downtown for a St. Paddy's celebration

Everyone in St. Louis is Irish at least one day per year, so drop your James Joyce compendium and head downtown for the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday, March 12. Now in its 36th year, the family-friendly parade begins at noon at Broadway and Market Street, then heads west on Market past Union Station until it reaches the pot o' gold at the end of the rainbow that is 20th Street. Built and decorated by Catholic parishes, neighborhood groups, Irish clans and other local sponsors, the St. Paddy's floats have all the flair of Mardi Gras but compensate for the lack of bead-flinging with marching bands, equestrian units and giant helium balloons. After all, nothing says St. Patrick's Day like a two-story-tall SpongeBob SquarePants.

Parade founder Joseph McGlynn Jr. still leads the way, with help from official Irish guest of honor Dr. Rory O'Hanlon (the Speaker of the House of the Irish Parliament), parade marshal Archbishop Raymond Burke and Mayor Francis Slay, among others. If you're truly game, arrive at Ninth and Market streets early (9:30 a.m.) and catch the 27th annual St. Patrick's Day Five-Mile Run, sponsored by Michelob Ultra. From 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (or later), Kiener Plaza (Seventh and Market streets) transforms into an Irish village complete with plenty of Irish food, brew, and leprechaun-and-clover themed merchandise, along with a play area and free face-painting for the kids. For more information about the day's activities, call 314-241-7287 or visit www.irishparade.com.

If none of this peels your potato, there are plenty of less-publicized celebrations at bars along the parade route and throughout downtown. After sunset, local establishments help the affair become less family-oriented with mugs of green beer, frosty kegs of Harp and Guinness, Irish car bombs (a shot of Baileys in a pint of Guinness) and many drinks involving Pucker, an apple-flavored liqueur that turns almost anything an alarming shade of kelly. By the end of the night, the greenest thing just might be the faces of the pub-crawling, Blarney-stoned crowd, when the true luck of the Irish involves successfully hailing a cab.

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