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A Toast to St. Patrick

Parades, festivals, song and plenty of good cheer honor the patron of Ireland.

March 12, 1998|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's that time of year again: the wearing o' the green, the lucky shamrock, the endless blarney and the emerald-hued beer. The convivial all-day party known as St. Patrick's Day.

And part of the responsibility for the high-spirited quality of the celebration has to go to St. Patrick himself. It was he who, in the fifth century, decreed that a portion of whiskey known as Pota Phadraig (or Patrick's Pot) be consumed on the feast day that came to be known as St. Patrick's day.

According to tradition, a shamrock must be floated in the whiskey before it is consumed, thus the expression "Drowning the Shamrock." Expect to see a considerable number of shamrocks drowned in the next few days.

But the weekend--as well as the holiday itself, on Tuesday--holds a lot more than shamrock drowning. There is, for example, the timely arrival of the Irish Rovers, who perform tonight at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, on Saturday at the Probst Center in Thousand Oaks and on Sunday at the Long Beach Terrace Theatre.

At a time when the Irish and Celtic musical melting pot is overflowing with every imaginable kind of fusion combination, the Rovers continue to perform in their traditional merrymaker fashion. After 34 years together, the three original band members--with four added players--are content to stick with the lively music that resulted in their 1967 million-selling single, "The Unicorn," and 1983's "Wasn't That a Party."

"After all these years," says Rover singer George Millar, "it still does feel like a party every time we go out on stage."

And he's right about that. An evening with the Rovers is a solid two hours of sing-along tunes, jokes and general happy times.

"People are too busy clapping their hands," adds Millar, "stomping their feet and having a grand old time to notice the clock ticking by."

There also is a performance on Monday in Orange County by the Irish National Radio Orchestra at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in a program titled "The Spirit of Ireland." And the best evidence of the popularity of Irish culture rests in the fact that the concert is, at the moment, sold out. But it's worth checking at (714) 854-4646 on the day of the program for cancellations to hear this versatile ensemble, which has played for everyone from Liberace to Henry Mancini, do their versions of such classics as "Danny Boy" and "The Last Rose of Summer."

The real fun of St. Patrick's Day, however, is associated with more active participation, with the kind of communal get-togethers that are an essential part of the convivial Irish character. And that means, first of all, parades and festival gatherings.

Interestingly, St. Patrick's Day parades and festivals actually originated in the United States in 1737, in celebrations organized by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston. And the centuries-old tradition--which subsequently was embraced by Ireland as well--continues in Los Angeles this weekend with several high-spirited gatherings. Here is a day-by-day rundown of doings:

Saturday

* The Hermosa Beach Annual St. Patrick's Day parade and festival. The parade starts at Valley Drive and Pier Avenue, continues on Pier and Hermosa avenues and ends at 8th Street and Hermosa. The festival begins at 10 a.m., with Irish arts, crafts, food and music booths on Hermosa Avenue from 8th to 13th streets and on the Pier Avenue Promenade. (310) 374-1365.

* The Irish Center of Southern California's fourth annual St. Patrick's Day celebration, with Irish music, step dancing, dinner. At the Police Academy, 1800 N. Academy Drive, Los Angeles. 6:30 p.m. (818) 238-0445.

* The Rose of Tralee annual pageant, featuring Irish music and dinner and the selection of Southern California's "Rose of Tralee." The Biltmore Hotel. (213) 322-2802.

Saturday and Sunday

* Pasadena St. Patrick's Day parade and festival. The two-day festival will be held in Central Park. Saturday features a pub crawl. The parade begins at noon on Sunday, starting on Green Street and ending at Del Mar Boulevard and Raymond Avenue. A post-parade festival from 1 to 6 p.m. includes Irish food and music, storytellers, arts and crafts and an Irish stew cook-off. (818) 796-5049.

Sunday

* St. Patrick's family festival at the Brothers of St. Patrick, 7820 Bolsa Ave., Midway City. Including an open-air mass in Gaelic, as well as football, hurling, dancing, music and food. 11 a.m. to 6. p.m. (714) 897-8181.

Tuesday

* The Farmers Market St. Patrick's Day celebration. Traditional Irish music and food, with selected specials and discounts at Farmers Market merchants. Third Street and Fairfax Avenue. (213) 933-9211.

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