St. Pat's on a Saturday? Fasten your seat belts—this could get awesome

March 15, 2012|By Leonor Vivanco, RedEye

Scott Dietrich's gotta start Saturday morning just right.

Every year, when Chicago celebratesSt. Patrick's Day, he cooks corned beef and flips green pancakes for his close friends. That kind of breakfast will help him survive the rest of the day, which is shaping up to be epic this year.

For the first time since 2007, Chicago will ring in the actualSt. Patrick's Dayon a Saturday, and it turns out there's a boatload of other reasons to let loose.

There's the dyeing of the Chicago River and the downtown parade, of course. But there's also the bracket-busting insanity of the NCAA basketball tournament, the first weekend of which will be in full swing as revelers toss back those green beers. Add to that the fact that the Bulls have the opportunity to beat Philadelphia at home—a feat Michael Jordan and company achieved on a SaturdaySt. Patrick's Day way back in 1990—and the idea of a mad, mad March really starts making sense.

Don't forget about the burst of warm weather. The city is looking at a high of 76 degrees and a chance of rain in the afternoon.

"It's like the perfect storm," said Dietrich, 33, a commercial banker who lives in Lakeview.

Like many Chicagoans, he may need the luck of the Irish to make it through the crazy day.

As an organizer of St. Patty's Crawl Chicago, Dietrich, along with an expected group of 600, will be going on a three-bar crawl beginning at 9:30 a.m. with a four-hour open bar at Excalibur Nightclub in River North. Other stops include The Coach House in Lakeview and Barn & Company in Lincoln Park.

"St. Patrick's Dayis one of the biggest bar days of the year to go along with the likes of Halloween andNew Year's Eve," Dietrich said. "Get ready for lots of people, lots of green, lots of beer and no cabs."

That's exactly what out-of-towner Melissa Naber will find during her firstSt. Patrick's Daytrip to Chicago. Naber also happens to be celebrating her 30th birthday, making the day all the more thrilling.

"We're all really excited," said Naber, 29, who is traveling from Arroyo Grande, Calif., with her boyfriend and another couple.

She considered boarding a plane to Ireland to mark her March 17 birthday, but she recently started a new job and couldn't get the time off for an overseas jaunt. So it was between Chicago, which she knew had one of the country's biggest St. Patrick's Day parades, and Phoenix, home to plenty of golf courses.

"For me, every experience I've had [in Chicago], everyone has been nice and had the Midwestern kind of hospitality," she said.

Her itinerary for Saturday includes a champagne brunch, the parade, shopping and dinner at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse.

The St. Patrick's Day to-do list for the 600 Trinity Irish Dancers in the Chicago area, however, is much more grueling. March obviously is their busy month, with 150 appearances in Chicagoland. They have 21 public performances alone scheduled for Saturday.

"By the time it gets to that day, even though everybody's tired, it truly is so much fun," said Old Irving Park resident Shannan Hofman Bunting, 41, who has two daughters Sadie, 9, and Sinead, 5, in the troupe.

"They're doing a wedding. They're dancing at a 5K run, the Bulls game. … You name it, they are dancing, pretty much," she said, noting the troupe has appearances at locations including the downtown parade, Navy Pier and the Irish American Heritage Center.

"It's very hectic, but it's so much fun," she said. | @lvivanco

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