100,000 at St. Patrick's Day Block Party in St. Paul
More than 100,000 people partied in downtown St. Paul Saturday, to celebrate St. Patrick's day.
Extra officers were on patrol in case things got out of hand; requests to police for information about the number of arrests made went unanswered Saturday evening.
For the first time ever, the city closed West 7th between Kellogg and Walnut between 2pm and 10pm, and let folks walk from bar to bar, booze in hand.
According to suppliers and distributors, the seven bars and restaurants in this two block stretch historically do more St. Patrick's Day business than anywhere else in the state. All restaurants within the closed-off area were open and serving, and many also offered service on the sidewalk and in tent parties.
"St. Paul has the richest Irish history of any city across Minnesota, and every St. Patrick's Day I look forward to honoring that history with a great celebration downtown," Mayor Chris Coleman said in a statement. Coleman was out of town and didn't attend the festivities. "With the support of downtown's businesses, family-fun activities and the best St. Pat's Day parade in the state, I'm looking forward to this type of festival becoming a Saint Paul tradition."
People were lining up at the bars as early at 8:30 am. They wore beads and kilts and dressed all in green. One woman was passing out Lucky Charms cereal.
According to Joe Spencer, St. Paul's Director of Arts and Culture, "Last year what happened is we were so overwhelmed with tens of thousands of people that we ended up having to close the street for public safety reasons. This year we said let's just make it a block party."
St. Paul hopes to make it an annual Saturday tradition, even when St. Paddy's day doesn't actually fall on a Saturday. (Saturday was March 16th, not March 17th this year.) St. Paul resident Nici Jordan wasn't thrilled with the idea. "I'm actually a little disgruntled about that. I feel St. Paddy's Day should actually be on St. Patrick's Day and that it just kind of allows for some kind of 'band-wagoners' to kind of cause chaos in St. Paul."
John Connolly, a Burnsville resident, said, "Well, I'm a Catholic Irishman. This morning I did go to mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul so it is about our roots and celebrating St. Patrick what he did, evangelizing Ireland and all that stuff. So I don't get too much into partying. It's mostly a religious holiday for me but it's still fun though."
Spencer added, "At the end of the day it's a great celebration of Irish culture."
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.