It’s time for green beer, green beads – and consuming enough of the former participate in inadvisable activities to obtain the latter. In other words, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations – and with them, St. Patrick’s Day-themed sports events – have had enough of social distancing and are roaring back with a vengeance. And while party-hardy individuals do NOT have the luck of the Irish this year (the holiday falls on a Thursday), the weekend before is close enough for plenty of people.
The good news is that all things green can help move some things out of red ink and put them back in black.
But make no mistake: the biggest mass participation event of the holiday (outside of a bar crawl) is the 5K road race, and it’s safe to say St. Patrick’s Day-themed races attract a lot of people who don’t normally step on a racecourse. (Ever. Period.)
Data from the Running In The USA site, which tracks races (everything from 5Ks to marathons) shows an enormous spike in race on Saturday, March 14 (as compared with March 7 or March 21). Many of the races have names that include St. Patrick, St. Paddy, Irish, Leprechaun and Green. (Of course, 3.14 is the mathematical notation for Pi, and a number of races also capitalize on this, with pie at the finish line – or spread across the course).
Often, races accompany other events in cities, such as St. Patrick’s Day parades and festivals (more on that in a minute) – and as a result, include a party component at the end. Many race fees cover the cost of a beer tent at the end, and if the event happens to be held in an area where eateries and bars are available, the potential for more widespread economic impact is there.
In fact, for those so inclined, it’s even possible to refine an Internet search to include only St. Patrick’s Day races with drinking stations. Just for research purposes only, of course.
Plenty of events have capitalized on St. Patrick’s Day, including racquetball (37th Annual PapaNicholas Shamrock Shootout in Lombard, Illinois), pickleball (St Patrick’s Day Tournament in Virginia Beach) and (duh, it’s March) the St. Patrick’s Day Shootout at Horizon’s Edge in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Sometimes, the party aspect is unapologetically front and center. The Second Annual Naughty St. Patrick’s Day Volleyball Tournament in Hermosa Beach notes it is a “lingerie party masquerading as a volleyball tournament.”
For more than a decade, the National Retail Federation has been tracking consumers’ plans for spending on St. Patrick’s Day. 2020, of course, was a big loss, and 2021 was not a whole lot better, since the vaccine was just ramping up.
This year, the outlook is brighter. Bloomberg News notes that for the first time since 2020, Ireland plans to host large-scale celebrations.
Ireland plans to hold St Patrick’s Day celebrations for the first time in three years, adding to signs of life returning to normal amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The five-day festival in Dublin, which takes place around the St Patrick’s holiday on March 17, was one of the first major events to be canceled in March 2020 as the pandemic put the brakes on group activities. This year’s event will be “the largest in scale and ambition to date,” according to the organizers.
Its return comes after Ireland dropped most remaining pandemic restrictions in January amid declining infections from the omicron variant. Smaller events will take place elsewhere across the country on the holiday itself.
“This celebration of our national day sends the message out loud and clear – Ireland is open again for tourism,” Culture Minister Catherine Martin said in a statement Monday.
The return of the festival will be a boost for the hospitality sector, which has been battered by successive lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions. Before the pandemic, the festival organizers put its economic benefit at more than 73 million euros ($83.4 million).
Oh, and get this: Friday, March 18 will also be a public holiday in Ireland in recognition of people’s efforts through the pandemic. That leads the way for robust parties, big spending and lots of gatherings.
Closer to home, the traditional parade on Fifth Avenue in New York is set to take place in full, while in Chicago, preparations are in full swing for a parade on March 12 and other activations (including 5Ks) in and around the holiday. Another returning pre-pandemic tradition: the Chicago River is set to be dyed green this year for the first time since 2019 and athletes will see it during some of these events. Oh, and nobody needs to wear lingerie to do it.