Ever since Irish 31’s very first Paddyfest celebration in 2013, we have set out to give our guests, our neighbors, our extended family, the biggest and best St. Paddy’s Day festival in all of Tampa Bay. Our flagship location in Hyde Park Village set the standard that first year, with a massive block party featuring top bands, a St. Patrick look-alike contest with a grand prize of a trip to Ireland, and a kids’ day for our pint-sized leprechauns. We took over Rome Avenue with one goal in mind: Create a legendary St. Paddy’s Day celebration that we could build on for years to come. Little did we know, that it would be our guests that would steer the way. Our guests would inspire new events, recommend great bands, and suggest new contests that would make our annual celebration evolve into the week-long festival that it is today, lovingly coined “The People’s Paddyfest”.
As we open new locations, we also welcome new neighbors, friends, and families through our doors, and in doing so, learn more about the neighborhoods that we now call home. Each neighborhood is different, special, and it’s exciting to watch the unique personality of each pub influence the fabric of our culture, and the legacy of our annual Paddyfest event. We’ve come a long way since that first block party on Rome. In 2014, we welcomed our second Tampa Bay location to Westchase, and the following year Ferg’s Live joined the family. Not too long after that, Irish 31 opened inside Amalie Arena, and also in WestShore Plaza. Presently, Wiregrass, Clearwater Beach, Sarasota, Seminole, and Gainesville are all planned for the upcoming year, and we’re not stopping there. ‘The People’s Paddyfest’ has added new layers of richness with each store opening, and although we couldn’t be more proud of what we have accomplished so far, we can’t wait to see what lies ahead.
While there’s no doubt that we’re just scratching the surface on Paddyfest’s potential, this year’s celebration was a true labor of love, and we are so thankful to all those that came out and spent some time with us. With over a dozen events, spanning a full week and four venues, this year’s festivities welcomed over 15,000 guests and raised a ton of money for local pets in need! As a pub house and eatery, we are more than just a bar, we are a family-friendly gathering place – a second home for some – and for that reason, our week-long Paddyfest event offers so much more than just your traditional one-night blowout. We always want to make sure that every one of our neighbors has an opportunity to celebrate with us, and for some that may not involve green beer and shots from the ice luge, so we started by introducing some fun events for the kiddos.
One of our largest, and most exciting additions for 2017, was our Inaugural Paddyfest Family Fun Day in Westchase. Massive inflatable obstacle courses, carnival games, face painting, cornhole, bounce houses, and slapshot with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s very own, Thunderbug, took over our pub’s backyard, and filled the air with giddy laughter and excited squeals. In addition to Westchase’s Family Fun Day, we also introduced a 3K Family Fun Run at WestShore Plaza with our friends from Fit4Mom and Village Square, and a second Kids’ Day with a giant basketball toss, bounce house, and more carnival games at Ferg’s Live. Family is a huge part of who we are, and where we came from, and we promise to make these free, family-friendly events a mainstay in every neighborhood that we call home, for many years to come.
Another source of pride for both concepts, Irish 31 and Ferg’s Live, is our commitment to our fitness minded guests, and our belief in supporting a healthy, active lifestyle. When Paddyfest comes around, we always do something extra special for our weekly Run Clubs and monthly Pedals & Pints cycling club, but this year we took it to the next level, and man, was it a blast! Our Run Clubs hosted ‘Shamrock Shuffles’ where runners of all ages and experience levels collected shamrock bracelets along a 3-mile route for the chance to win a brand new Apple watch. Our Pedals & Pints cycling group teamed up with New Belgium Brewing to host a Blarney Scavenger Hunt on bikes, where nearly 100 participants teamed up to solve clues and navigate the streets of Downtown/South Tampa in search of bonus stops that would increase their odds of winning a brand new New Belgium Cruiser. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Irish 31 and Ferg’s Live also joined forces with our friends from Glowbash to host the Inaugural ‘Shake Your Shamrocks 5K’ down the picturesque Riverwalk in downtown Tampa!
While we worked hard to offer something for everyone this St. Paddy’s week, we didn’t lose sight of what this holiday is really all about…the party, of course! Green beer flowed fast and furious all week long, starting early in the morning for our Keggs & Eggs brunch events and lasting late into the evening as revelers chased shots from the Fireball ice luge. Our featured ‘Leprechaun Lemonade’ made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka proved itself the belle of the ball, with its green hue and smooth flavor. The pubs were packed with regulars, along with plenty of new faces, and everyone came ready to have a great time in the name of St. Paddy’s Day! Our friends at OMG Trolley Co. transported partiers back and forth between Irish 31 and Ferg’s Live so guests could safely party-hop between venues, and from 5pm until 2am the Free Paddyfest Trolley rarely had an empty seat.
A legendary party cannot exist without a backdrop of awesome music, and this year’s Paddyfest lineup most definitely delivered. With solo artists performing low-key favorites during Keggs & Eggs, duos and trios rocking out late into the evening, and Tampa’s hottest DJs spinning well into the wee hours, this year’s entertainment schedule did not disappoint. In addition to smaller acts performing from our house stages, we also welcomed some big names to our Ferg’s Live main stage, including U2 by UV: The U2 Concert Experience, the talented Ally Venable Band, and Seven Nations- a Celtic Rock band whose bagpipe solos left guests in awe. While there’s no denying that this year’s line-up was pretty awesome, we have already started planning our bands for 2018, and WOW! Rest assured, next year we are taking the entertainment to a whole new level, and we are going to blow the roof off of this thing…
In addition to great bands, cold beer, dancers from the Scarriff School of Irish Dance, corned beef & cabbage, activities for the fitness minded, and family fun for the kiddos, we also peppered in a couple of signature contests to sweeten the pot and add to the excitement of St. Paddy’s Day. Our 2nd Annual Giant Flip Cup Tournament at Ferg’s Live welcomed over 100 contestants, all of whom chugged green beer and flipped solo cups with their eye on the prize – $500 cash plus some awesome goodies from our sponsor, Coors Light. All three pubs hosted their 2nd Annual Car Bomb Wing-eating contest, during which participants gobbled down spicy wings drenched in Irish 31’s Car Bomb sauce for the chance to win $250 cash and some sweet prizes from Guinness. Even our pint-sized leprechauns had the chance to color their way to a $100 gift card from Toys ‘R’ Us!
From contests to concerts, competitions to carnival games, this year’s week-long Paddyfest celebration had something for everyone, but mark our words…we’re just getting started! So, please, check out our Paddyfest 2017 compilation video, explore the photo galleries, share with your friends, and plan to join us next year when the celebration expands to Wiregrass and Sarasota, where new friends will be met, new events will be inspired, and ‘The People’s Paddyfest’ will continue to build a lasting legacy as, “The Biggest and Best St. Paddy’s Day Celebration in Tampa Bay (and soon, beyond)!”