Hawaii is probably not the first place most people think of when it comes to Saint Patrick’s Day. Cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia hold parades that attract hundreds of thousands of spectators, with thousands of marchers and many dozens of civic groups participating. That’s where there real Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations are celebrated in the U.S., right?
Well, maybe. But Honolulu holds two major events on Saint Patrick’s Day that attract thousands and rival any other celebrations in the Pacific in size and scale. The annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade takes place in the heart of Waikiki, down Kalakaua Avenue. Organized by the Honolulu chapter of the Friends of Saint Patrick, it features marching bands, car clubs, and a variety of civic organizations. Visitors and residents line the parade route each year, many of them eager to see a vintage automobile club roll by with an eclectic variety of impeccably restored rides. (Keep in mind that Kalakaua Avenue is closed to traffic at 11am for the parade.)
Later in the day in Downtown Honolulu is the annual Murphy’s Bar & Grill Saint Patrick’s Day Block Party. In the afternoon, streets are closed to traffic in Honolulu’s “Irish corner,” and a large public parking lot is turned into a kind of mini-midway of food booths and beer stands. The block party features a “Keiki Corner” with family-friendly activities and face-painting for kids.
The food at the block party has always been a major attraction in the event’s 28 year history. Don Murphy brings in thousands of pounds of corned beef, fish and chips, oysters, and salmon for the event each year. His wife Marion Murphy makes much-coveted Irish whiskey cake and bread pudding for eager sweet teeth.
As the sun sets, bands take to the main stage at the corner of King and Nuuanu, and revelers begin to settle in to not-so family friendly revelry. Beer and whiskey are swilled, the crowd mills and swells to jam-packed. This is what you’d expect from similar events in bigger U.S. cities. Eyes glaze and smiles spread. Every one of the 25,000 or so in attendance becomes Irish, if only for the night.
Billed as the “biggest Saint Patrick’s Day celebration in the Pacific,” the Murphy’s Saint Patrick’s Day Block Party is not just about feasting and drinking. Don Murphy is legendary in Hawaii for his charitable efforts, and the block party is his biggest of the year. Murphy’s Bar & Grill donates two dollars for every pound of corned beef sold at the block party to Hawaii’s children’s cancer foundation.
There’s plenty to do for Saint Patrick’s Day in Honolulu, and visitors keen to partake in the revelry have appealing options for family fare and all-out revelry alike. Slainte!