CECIL COUNTY — The spirit of Saint Patrick will be shining bright in the hearts of many Cecil County residents as businesses and their patrons celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, March 17, and the days surrounding the holiday.
Minihane’s honors its Irish roots
St. Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is an Irish cultural and religious celebration honoring the primary patron saint of Ireland who is known for converting the people of Ireland to Christianity in the fifth century.
The holiday, held on March 17 every year, marks the supposed date of St. Patrick’s death.
Historically, Christians would lift Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol for the day — a tradition that later developed into the consumption of alcohol that is often associated with the holiday.
Denis Minihane said that although he and his fellow Irishmen encourage “drinking and general merriment” in moderation, the holiday is more than just a day to let loose with some alcoholic beverage; it’s a tribute to Ireland’s patron saint and to the rich culture that Irish-Americans’ ancestors celebrated in their homeland and brought with them to America and other countries.
“In a nutshell, the idea is to have fun, share culture, share stories, share ideas, make sure everybody has a good time, and make sure everybody goes and be safe. Not overly focus on just only merriment,” Minihane said. “There is a story. [St. Patrick] is a patron saint of the country. There is an element of gravity with that. It is honoring our national saint, and I think that is an important part of it.”
Minihane, who owns Minihane’s Irish Pub and Restaurant with his wife, Ingrid, grew up in his hometown of Skibbereen in West Cork, Ireland. After both being involved in the seafood industry, Denis and Ingrid, who is from Chile, found their way to Cecil County.
The couple opened their restaurant on Elkton’s Main Street in 2013 and have been hosting a St. Patrick’s Day celebration ever since.
“It’s getting stronger every year … Now that there’s some other businesses in downtown, I think it’s going to be a good weekend for all,” Minihane said.
Now in its sixth year, Minihane’s St. Patrick’s celebration will span the entire weekend.
The festivities will begin Friday, March 15, with Irish food and drinks, as well as music from 7 to 10 p.m. by the band McMark & Company.
On Saturday, March 16, the restaurant will host its Lepre-Con Irish Festival which will feature a costume contest where customers can dress up as leprechauns and compete for a mystery prize.
“Giving a prize to a leprechaun, it would be very very wrong of me to tell you what it will be ... We don’t want to upset all the leprechauns in Ireland for saying there’s an award for being them. But it will be something quite unique,” Minihane said. The band Plan B will close out the night starting at 9 p.m.
For events on the day of the actual holiday, folks can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, March 17, with music from the Irish Jasper Greens at 3 p.m., Beyond the Pale at 5 p.m., and Ride the Goat at 8 p.m.
Minihane added that the Irish Jasper Greens help raise funds to support the St. Patrick’s chapel in Conowingo, which was built by Irish workers who were working on the Susquehanna canals.
Minihane said he didn’t expect the event to get so big when his restaurant first started celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, but he is humbled by the widespread support and interest in celebrating Irish heritage.
“When Irish people do something, they do it first and then ask the question ‘Why?’ afterward,” he said. “It’s an honor actually. The support from the community, the town, and everything has been phenomenal in building something. Prior to six years ago, I don’t think there was a lot of mention of St. Patrick’s and Elkton in the same sentence. We’re able to pull people from not only the county, but I think across the state lines.”
Whether on St. Patrick’s Day or any other day of the year, Minihane said folks can rely on his pub for a space where everyone is family.
“For Ingrid and I, it’s humbling to be part of a community, to be able to bring our culture to the community, and more importantly to have the community accept it as widely as they have,” he said. “In this business, we’ve made friends and customers almost one in the same. I heard the comment recently, which I think was a great reflection on the pub, that ‘You can go anywhere for a beer, but you go to Minihane’s for the company.’”
Bayheads to celebrate first anniversary
It hardly feels like it’s been a year since Bayheads Brewing Company opened, said Jason Zang, co-founder of the Chesapeake City brewery.
“The year has flown by … When you start out, you don’t really think about your first, second, fifth or 10th anniversary, but it really flew by,” Zang said.
Bayheads had a series of soft openings, but their grand opening fell on March 17, 2017 — St. Patrick’s Day. Zang said the selection of that date happened more by chance than anything.
“We just sat down and said, ‘Let’s just plan for a Saturday however many weeks in advance of when we think we’re ready.’ We looked at the calendar and St. Patrick’s Day was on one of those Saturdays, so we kind of rolled with it,” he said.
To commemorate their anniversary, Bayheads will be hosting a “One Year Anniversary Party” from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 16.
Zang founded the brewery with his friends Bill Dix and Charlie Copeland. The trio had been buddies throughout their years at Bohemia Manor High School, and they kept in touch while in college.
Zang caught wind that Dix and Copeland were thinking about starting “something,” but they weren’t sure whether it would be a bar, restaurant or something else.
After visiting other breweries, the three men decided they wanted to bring local beer to Chesapeake City, Cecil County at large, and the surrounding region.
“We wanted to bring something close to our hometown … We wanted to be more of a part of the community, and we thought starting a business and a starting a brewery was a good way to do that,” Zang said.
No matter what style of beer someone is drinking — an American IPA, a Belgian tripel, a chocolate milk stout or something else entirely — Zang said the style may be the same, but the experience will be different depending on who brewed it.
“The style of the beer might be similar, but no matter where you go you’re never going to drink the exact same thing,” he said. “You’re never going to get the exact same thing out of two beers.”
Part of what Zang loves so much about brewing beer is the endless possibilities the craft affords the brewer.
“It allows for a lot of creativity and we try to have fun with it,” he said. “We really try to make our beers more than just a beer, but a story. In some cases, we’re able to tie them to things that happened locally or things we heard about growing up as kids.”
One of Bayheads’ beers is the seasonal Screaming Polly Pumpkin Ale, which is based on a legend Zang and his friends heard growing up. The story differs from place to place, but the Earleville version Zang heard occurs around a wooded area along Stemmers Run Road.
“Whether you were walking down, or if you were in the car and you shut your lights off and turned everything off, you would hear the sound of a ghost screaming,” he said.
That seasonal beer will not be available at the anniversary party, but Zang said Bayheads will have eight beers on tap that day, including three new ones: an Irish dry stout, a hoppy red ale, and a secret Bayheads Anniversary Beer.
Zang said Bayheads will announced the details about that last beer’s flavors on social media in the days leading up to the anniversary, but he thinks it will be sure to please customers’ palates.
“I really believe it’s going to be a customer-favorite, I really do,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of input from our customers over the past year of what kinds of beer they want to see. We think this is going to be one that they’ll take to very well.”
On the day of the party, Zang said Bayheads patrons can park on the Chesapeake City Little League Field, located behind the brewery’s strip mall location at 2525 Augustine Herman Highway.
In addition to the beers Bayheads will have on tap, the event will also feature music by Charlie Zahm, food from the Maryland in a Can food truck, and a free shuttle to and from downtown Chesapeake City.
“We know the pub crawl is big downtown, and we want to make sure we’re getting people to and from safely,” Zang said. “Downtown Chesapeake City has a ton to offer on that day as well. Everybody down there has been great partners with us. We want to support them just as much as they want to support us.”
The 20th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and pub crawl, sponsored by the town chamber of commerce and Friends of Chesapeake City, will kickoff at noon Saturday, March 16, in Chesapeake City, running down Bohemia Avenue to Pell Gardens. Participating in the parade are the Mummer’s Duffy String Jam Band, floats, high school bands and more, with prizes and music following at Pell Gardens.
Zang was appreciative of all the support Bayheads has received from family, friends, the county, community members, and people who they didn’t even know before opening the brewery but have built relationships through the business.
He added that it has also been great working with the other breweries in the county.
“There’s several others and they’ve all been as far as sharing information,” he said. “We try to help others through different learning curves, so it’s a very supportive community.”