The Bally Hotel’s Irish Wake 2013 celebration, which began on Thursday night, culminated with a kid-friendly Family Fun Day on Saturday and a lively Saint Patrick’s Day party on Sunday.
According to their website, www.theballyhotel.com, the Saint Patrick’s Day Irish Wake festivities have been happening annually for more than 35 years. Over the years the event has grown to become a four-day weekend event.
Current owners and long-time friends Trevor Knight and brothers Ian and Gus Meinzer purchased The Bally Hotel in 2007 and by 2009 had expanded the Irish Wake activities to include a Family Fun Day, so more than just the adults in the local community could get involved.
“We started doing the Family Fun Day because Bally is a tiny town, so we wanted to do something special for families,” explained Knight. “We’re filled with kids all day, which is really nice.”
The Family Fun Day activities kicked off at 7 a.m. with an all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage breakfast in a large tent covering the back parking lot of The Bally Hotel. The Bally Lions Club prepared and served the meal, and all of the proceeds went to their organization.
In order to get into the spirit of the event, a variety of green accessories, including hats, glasses, and rubber hair wigs were available for purchase. The Bally Hotel bought all of the items, and then donated them to the Bally Lions Club so the organization could benefit from these sales as well.
As the Lions continued breakfast service through 11 a.m., rockabilly trio the Red Hill Ramblers entertained the crowd. Then in between the Red Hill Ramblers’ sets, the Kaitrin Irish Dancers performed a variety of Irish jigs and reels.
On either side of the performance stage, activities were set up for the amusement of the several dozen children at the event. Face painting was available, as well as an arts and crafts table with coloring sheets and sand art. There was also a game area including a golf putter, bean bag toss, duck pond, and lollipop tree, and children were awarded small prizes for their participation in each.
After breakfast service ended, hot dogs, hamburgers, and beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) were available in the tent, while the full menu and bar was available inside in the restaurant.
The highlight of the day, the coffin races, took place at noon across the street in the parking lot of the Bally Block Company. Similar to a pushcart derby race, the coffin races required teams to have a “coffin” that was at least four feet long with four people pushing the cart and one rider inside the carriage. Given that The Bally Hotel’s celebration is deemed an “Irish Wake,” designating the contest as “coffin races” made perfect sense.
This year three teams, The Mighty Orangemen, Road Kill Runner, and Med Irish, braved the snow and cold to compete in front of a crowd of more than 60 who lined the course cheering the groups on. Bally Hotel lunchtime regular, Dave Lewis, signaled the start of each race by playing “The Call to the Post,” or more familiarly ‘Charge,’ on his trumpet.
After several heats The Mighty Orangemen, including Michael Patton, Charles Wunder, Shawn Hester, Chad Dougherty, and Vincent Patton, were victorious. “We were here to kick butt and chew bubblegum,” exclaimed Wunder, “and we’re all out of bubblegum!”
Following the races, Family Fun Day concluded with two hours of kids’ karaoke from 1 to 3 p.m. Afterwards the afternoon and evening performances included the Peter Johann Band, Hired Hands, and bag pipers, while late night festivities included the 10 p.m. procession followed by DJ Eclipse through closing at 2 a.m.
Then on Sunday, Saint Patrick’s Day, the celebration at The Bally Hotel continued at 7 a.m. with a corned beef and beer breakfast that ran through 11 a.m. and included entertainment from Sean Smith. Performers throughout the day and evening included Hired Hands, Muscle Shoals Revival, Whiskey Hicken Boys, DJ Eclipse, and of course bag pipers and the final procession of 2013.
From revelers to racers to families, there was something for everyone at The Bally Hotel during the Irish Wake 2013, which was expected to be the biggest one to date.
“We’ve had a great turnout this year,” said Knight. “It’s great to be able to do this in the community.”