Day Trips: The greening o’ the beach

Pipes and drums bands are featured in the annual North Myrtle Beach St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival.
Pipes and drums bands are featured in the annual North Myrtle Beach St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival.

If Myrtle Beach’s Can-Am Days begin March 12 with Canadians kicking off the 2016 tourist season, who is welcoming spring farther up the beach?

About 30,000 people, many with their faces painted green.

Next Saturday marks the return of North Myrtle Beach’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, a one-day event that briefly nudges our frost-bitten northern visitors from center stage.

It’s the 28th incarnation of the Irish-American festivities on the Grand Strand.

The parade begins at 9 a.m., rain or shine, on North Myrtle Beach’s Main Street. After, Main Street is awash with approximately 150 vendors of food and arts/crafts.

The festival, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., features two stages of live music and a children’s area with rides and activities.

There’s beer sold, of course, but it’s the Gaelic music that stirs the blood. You’ll be able to hear the Myrtle Beach Regional Pipes and Drums as well as Coastal Pipes and Drums. Myrtle Beach-based Band on the Rum musically points up the links between Scots/Irish music and American folk (its percussionist plays a bodhrain, the Irish drum that looks like a tambourine). The main-stage headliners, whose set begins at 2:45, are the Tan & Sober Gentlemen, a six-piece from Durham/Chapel Hill whose raucous party tunes are a tip of the hat to Clancy Brothers-like folk music that can veer into what the band terms “Irish punk-grass.”

And then there are the competitions.

Register at the main stage (outside Flynn’s Irish Tavern) before 2 p.m. to compete in the festival’s leprechaun contest. Being of short stature is neither a help nor hindrance. Contestants are “judged on originality, creativity, appearance, enthusiasm and energy,” must be 18 or older, “dressed in a leprechaun/Irish themed costume” and not averse to being photographed. The victor, probably green-garbed, takes home a $100 gift card, an event T-shirt and a souvenir of achievement.

Bragging rights, “a stylish plaque designed by Coastal Engravers” – and a full belly – go to the winner of the shepherd’s pie-eating contest. Register before 2 p.m. for the no-charge 2:30 event. The dish is a meat pie (the filling is traditionally beef or lamb) with a top of mashed potatoes. It dates to the late 1700s, when spuds, native to the Americas, were introduced to Irish agriculture and British tables. Its widespread popularity today flies in the face of its humble origins: Shepherd’s pie is a favorite of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards; the Internet is well-stocked with recipes that claim to be his favorite.

John Bordsen: 704-358-5251

Want to go?

The North Myrtle Beach 28th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Main Street. Anticipate street closings. Admission and parking: free.

Details: Click the festival link at