MISSOULA – The University of Montana’s Irish Studies program and The Friends of Irish Studies will host numerous events in the coming weeks to celebrate and honor Irish heritage in Montana.
“By proclamation of the president and Congress of the United States, March is celebrated as Irish American Heritage Month,” said Traolach Ó Ríordáin, UM Irish Studies program director. “The Irish will honor the achievements of past generations, recognize the work of those who continue to promote Irish culture and heritage, and invite more people to become actively involved in passing on this rich legacy to the next generation.”
Central to celebration is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, set for noon Saturday, March 11, in downtown Missoula.
As in previous years, a full slate of activities designed to appeal to all age groups is planned.
The festivities begin with Celtic band Altan in concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, at the Dennison Theatre. According to Ó Ríordáin, no Irish traditional band in the past dozen years, apart from the Chieftains, has had a wider impact on audiences and music lovers throughout the world than Altan.
“An Irish concert of this quality comes around once every 10 to 15 years,” he said. “It will lift your spirits and whet your appetite for all things Irish and should not be missed.”
Tickets are on sale at all GrizTix locations, by calling 1-888-MONTANA or online at http://www.umt.edu/griztix/. They cost $28 in advance and $30 at the door. Students and Friends of Irish Studies members receive a $2 discount.
The rest of the schedule follows:
Saturday, March 11
- St. Patrick’s Mass: 8 a.m., St. Francis Xavier Church, located at 420 W. Pine St. A traditional Irish Gaelic Mass with Irish music, hymns and readings in the Irish language. A booklet with translations is provided.
- St. Patrick’s Day Parade: 11 a.m. lineup; noon departure. The parade will depart from Spruce Street and Higgins Avenue and travel over the bridge to Beckwith Avenue. The grand marshal of the parade is Mark “Macey” McLaverty. Community organizations are encouraged to get involved. Entry forms are available at the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce.
- St. Patrick’s Day Irish whiskey tasting: 2 p.m., Rhino Bar. Join Kevin Head in sampling some of the finest whiskeys from Ireland’s 3,000-year-old tradition of distillation. The cost per person is $25 and you get to sample eight different beverages.
- Carousel rides: 2-4 p.m. Free rides for kids at A Carousel for Missoula. This event is sponsored by the Phil Maloney Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
- Hurling game: 2:30 p.m., Washington-Grizzly Stadium. The UM Grizzlies hurling team and the Thomas Meaghers will compete at their annual St. Patrick’s Day clash. Organizers say this will be an intense game and should not be missed. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
- St. Patrick’s Day Banquet and Auction: 6-9:30 p.m., Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown. The largest Irish gathering of the year in Missoula culminates the day’s events with a banquet and auction. Proceeds from the event support the Irish Studies program and promote Irish culture in the community. The evening is sponsored by the Friends of Irish Studies. For more information and to buy tickets online, visit http://www.friendsofirishstudies.com.
- Irish Man and Woman of the Year: At the banquet and auction, the Irish Man and Woman of the Year will be honored for their contributions to their communities and heritage. This year’s recipients are Larry and Mary White, both strong supporters of all things Irish, who will be recognized specifically for their efforts to promote the traditional Irish game of handball. They are part of a local group working to build outdoor courts in Missoula. People interested in learning more about handball or playing the sport should visit http://www.friendsofirishstudies.com or email Rick Harrington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday, March 26, the drawing for the Irish Studies raffle will take place at St. Anthony’s Parish Life Center, located at 217 Tremont St. First prize is two airline tickets to Ireland, 10-day car rental and $1,500 spending money. Second prize is a $1,000 gas voucher, and third prize is a $500 Visa card. To enter or for more information visit http://www.friendsofirishstudies.com.
The Friends of Irish Studies bring together representatives throughout the state to coordinate efforts to promote UM’s Irish Studies program and Montana’s Irish culture. The Friends put on concerts, bring in guest speakers, sponsor immersion courses in the Irish language, organize an annual trip to Ireland and host other events designed to foster a community united in their love of Ireland and its culture.
“As with all organizations, membership is the lifeblood of the Friends, and as the membership grows so also will the program of events the Friends can provide,” Ó Ríordáin said. “We invite you to join and to ask others to join this exciting organization. Together we can elevate Montana to become home to the most culturally vibrant Irish community in the United States.”