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Islanders party, go green at Bailey’s Irishfest 2009

By Staff | Mar 18, 2009

A cluster of green-clad revelers descended upon Bailey’s Center on Tuesday afternoon, drawn to the island hub for Irishfest 2009, a St. Patrick’s Day celebration where – as one party-goer boasted – “Everybody is Irish today!”

The traditional feast of corned beef and cabbage, potatoes and Irish stew – prepared by Bailey’s General Store staff and their neighbors at Biddles Bucket – and cups filled with green beer were being enjoyed by Irishfest attendees, who were entertained not only by the sounds of the BIG Arts chorus and moves performed by Irish step dancers but also by the costumes worn by partiers and passersby.

“I grew up here, and my mom teaches kindergarten here, so we come out to all of the local festivals,” said Tami Messier, who wore shamrock-shaped glasses, beads, a leprechaun-like T-shirt and green-and-white striped top hat.

Messier and her husband of two weeks, Charles, said that they most enjoyed the great music and festive attitude expressed by all.

“I like the green beer,” Charles added. “It’s the spirit of the day – the luckiest day of the year.”

Sam Bailey, founder of Sanibel’s Irishfest, was happy to see hundreds of people, locals and visitors alike, take part in the St. Patrick’s Day activity.

“I don’t claim to be anything other than an American, and a Southern American at that,” he said, “but things like this are what this country was built on… celebrating other customs and cultures.”

Sanibel resident John Carney, walking around the event toting his grandfather’s shillelagh (“walking stick”), explained, “Good Irishmen drink 364 days – we let the rest of them have this day.”

Fellow islander Carolyn Gorby, who came to Irishfest with her mother and sister, visiting from Pittsburgh, Pa., said that everybody is welcome to take part in St. Patrick’s Day.

“It’s a great party. I loved trying the green beer, and the corned beef and cabbage was delicious,” said Gorby. “It’s just a fun event for everyone to enjoy.”

Sanibel & Captiva Chamber of Commerce president Ric Base also attended Tuesday’s three-hour celebration, noting, “Things like this are just great. It’s what makes Sanibel Sanibel. You come to grocery shop and you get a free festival!”

“It’s terrific how Bailey’s has become the center of this community. This is where residents can come to meet each other,” added Mayor Mick Denham. “You look around and you see little kids having a good time and smiles on everyone’s faces. Sure, it’s kinda folksy… but that’s Sanibel.”