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Local pubs serve up celebration

St. Patrick’s Day festivities spread over the weekend

Published: Monday, March 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 18, 2013 10:54 p.m. CDT
(Gary L. Gates – For the Daily Chronicle)
Downers Grove natives Kevin Frank (center) and Pat Scaccia (right) laugh with O'Leary's Restaurant and Pub waitress Makaela Huerta on Sunday during St. Patrick's Day festivities.

DeKALB – Not everyone can have a name like Ron McCaslin, but as far as he is concerned, everyone is just as Irish as he is on March 17. 

McCaslin was one of many to flock to area pubs Sunday and throughout the weekend to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. McCaslin, who has never missed an opportunity to celebrate the day dedicated to his heritage, spent Sunday at DeKalb’s most Irish establishment, ­ O’Leary’s Restaurant & Pub. 

“Going to pubs is always a good idea on St. Patrick’s Day because you get that true Irish feeling,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, everyone is Irish today. You’ve got to have fun.”

O’Leary’s was a hotspot all weekend for people looking to tap into their inner Irish, said co-owner Debbie Witmer. The restaurant had live music, including bagpipers, Friday through Sunday and had specials from the traditional corned beef and cabbage to Jameson pot roasts. 

By Sunday afternoon, Witmer said O’Leary’s had served more than 650 pounds of corned beef and was out of green beer. 

“It’s huge for us,” she said of St. Patrick’s Day. “This is our ninth year, and we’re starting to see some of the same faces,” Witmer said. “It’s great knowing we are becoming part of people’s tradition.”

While many think of bagpipes and Irish folk songs during St. Patrick’s Day, Marc Hanson said there was still a place for familiar songs during one of the biggest parties of the year. 

Hanson, a Maple Park musician, performed acoustic renditions of popular songs spanning multiple decades Sunday at O’Learys. He said even if the tunes were not Irish, they still added to the celebration. 

“People always want to hear music they can relate to,” Hanson said. “Sometimes people don’t know those Irish drinking songs and can’t get into it.”

For thousands to celebrate, it required a few people to work Sunday. Cara Billuni, a manager at Fatty’s Pub & Grille, stayed busy Sunday running popular St. Patrick’s Day drinks such as Jameson and Guinness from table to table.

The workload was not overwhelming, though, because the holiday’s appearance on a Sunday caused the bulk of people to celebrate a day early.

“It’s not as busy as we may have expected, but [Saturday] night was,” she said. “It’s different because it’s on Sunday.”

Al Dobie was not deterred because the holiday fell on a Sunday. Dobie, a San Diego resident, was in town to visit his granddaughter. Although a frequent patron of Fatty’s during his visits to Northern Illinois University, he had never attended a St. Patrick’s Day.

After finding a table, he had only two things on his mind.

“It’s the first time I’ve been out here on St. Patrick’s Day so I wanted to see it firsthand,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to the corn beef and cabbage.”

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