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Plentiful St. Patrick's outings a treat for ears, tongue and feet

And so I was clad in green with plenty of places to be seen. It was a St. Patrick’s Week to behold. An Irish soul with four places to go.

There was dance and song, corned beef galore, brews, stews and much, much more. A wee church tossed a big bash on a wing and a prayer, with hopes it will flourish beyond compare.

The four events made me ponder what it means to be a son or daughter of the Emerald Isle. It is a land of rocky soil and rugged beauty. There is joy, laughter, language, song and dance. But all that pleasure was born of pain and perseverance.

If you would be so kind, dear reader, please take my hand as together we wind our way back through those four Local Events that touched my cultural treasures.

The first fete opened the week with comfort food, conversation, a bit of canned music and a reel and a jig at the Fallbrook Community Center. There the Fallbrook Senior Center paired its monthly birthday lunch with a St. Pat’s party.

Chef Rodolfo “Rudy” Pedroza prepared corned beef and cabbage, carrots and potatoes and the place was a sea of green amid a colorful scene. I bedecked myself in shamrock tights, a pendant, a Celtic cross and a matching ball cap. I decorated the place with my Irish flag, a banner and my ethnic brag.

Those weekday lunches are subsidized by the senior club and other groups and government at agencies. Thus the March 14 gathering was cheap fun for us old folks on the run.

On the next day came a treat at the Gloria McClellan Senior Center in Vista. The menu was a similar subsidized meal and my flag, banner and a cloth map traveled to those walls as well.

The treat came in the form of the Clan Rince School of Irish Dance – an array of young performers clad in traditional costumes that ignited the stage and electrified the audience. The school has branches in San Diego and San Marcos, and its dancers were prepping for a domestic trip to compete against international talent.

Those performances are in such high demand that school administrators recommend interested parties book them by December for the following year.

There’s a reason why this form of Irish dance calls for its performers to keep their arms glued to their sides. Ireland’s colonial masters had outlawed dancing, but the tradition survived because the furtive style masked those movements when viewed from afar.

My third outing required a bit of exercise of the Irish tongue. A companion and I had missed the deadline to register for the St. Pat’s Party at Silvergate Fallbrook. Thus it became necessary for us to talk our way into that March 15 gathering.

There I taped my flag to a courtyard wall, and we joined a cadre of friends in listening to an Irish band, watching some young dancers, eating some superb finger foods and quaffing Guinness and wine.

We chatted and danced with residents and eventually slipped out of the place with two bags of swag that included note pads, fanny packs and specially-decorated and wrapped CeCe’s Cookies. Those delicacies were apparently home baked in Fallbrook and are simply too adorable to eat.

And finally came the March 17 bash hosted by Christ Church, a small congregation that worships in a modular building along Reche Road. It was the trial run for what organizers hope will become an annual affair. Every member of that tight-knit group juggled a ton of tasks as they planned and pulled off the party.

The event featured foods, face painting and a jump house for kids, adult games, a treasure hunt, bluegrass bands and an opportunity to meet St. Patrick himself. Father Don Kroeger, the rector emeritus at the church, filled that role with great dignity and distinction.

In addition to hanging my flag, map and banner, I found myself drafted into an Irish stew-cooking competition that pitted eight competing churches and nonprofits. My pal Steve Britschgi cooked up our brew and I supplied the books and other paraphernalia that decorated our booth.

I displayed a sign that my dad had passed onto me. Dated Sept. 11, 1915, the item was produced by the Boston Sign Co. Some onlookers passed the sign off as a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. In reality, those NINA signs (Help Wanted – No Irish Need Apply) were a harsh reality for waves of ragged immigrants who had fled their native soil.

But this day was one of celebration, not causes. And thus Father Brian Capanna, the senior pastor, told the story of St. Patrick.

Patrick was a lad from a wealthy family who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland. He escaped after six years of servitude and returned to Britain, where he had a vision that compelled him to return to Ireland to preach the gospel. There he served as a missionary and a bishop and was credited with bringing Christianity to the land before his death about 460 A.D.

An ancestor of mine, a chieftain at the island’s south, was among the converted. A famous prayer – St. Patrick’s Breastplate – stemmed from the encounter amid that wild setting.

The bash closed with Father Brian reciting an Irish blessing. My wishes are that warmth, wisdom and wit all come to you.


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