LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch resident John Hanlon may have grown up in New York going to baseball and hockey games, but the first-generation Irish-American has always loved his Irish heritage.
He played Gaelic football and hurling in the Bronx’s Gaelic Park, attended a parochial school comprised completely of Irish-American students and enjoyed Irish festivals, concerts and other festivities.
“You were immersed in (the culture),” Hanlon said.
Now, Hanlon will help bring his Irish heritage to the forefront, as Lakewood Ranch Community Activities Corp. hosts its annual Irish Celtic Festival and Lucky Dog Parade from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 16, at Central Park, located north of State Road 70 and east of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, between Malachite Drive and 44th Avenue East.
“It shows the Irish culture is more than partying and drinking green beer,” Hanlon said of the festival. “It’s about having a good time, family and friends, and, if you can mix in a competitive sports, (that’s great, too).”
Festivities include live music and dance performances, Irish-themed contests, food and drink and children’s activities, including a “Pot of Gold” scavenger hunt, pony rides, face painting, spud-head decorating and more.
Hanlon and teammates will showcase Gaelic hurling and Gaelic football, with information on the sport, as well as live demonstrations. Exhibition-style matches will be played from 3 to 5 p.m. at Summerfield Park, farther south.
“The one thing we learned last year by offering this cultural festival is everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” event organizer and Community Activities Director Lori Basilone said. “So, for everyone on that one Irish day, we offer something for everyone — the Lucky Dog Parade, children’s activities, a full day of music, dance productions, traditional food and, of course, the importance of that stout beer.
“Festivals like this one help us to showcase our neighborly and welcoming community,” she said.
Proceeds from the Lucky Dog Parade, for which participants can enter canine friends in Irish-inspired costumes, benefit the Humane Society of Lakewood Ranch.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
IRISH CELTIC FESTIVAL
When: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 16
Where: Central Park
Details: Come out for a day of Irish and Celtic inspired fun, with activities including Irish/Celtic music and dance performances, food and drink, the Lucky Dog Parade, Irish-themed contents, children’s activities and more.