Getting Lucky in Missoula


St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner (March 17), and though many in Missoula talk about making a pilgrimage to Butte to join in their “shenanigans,” Missoula lays claim to some really fun and authentic celebration opportunities of its own.

St. Patrick’s Day was founded as a Catholic holiday and marks the anniversary of the death of Saint Patrick (c. AD 387-461), perhaps the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland. It later became an official feast day in the early 17th century.

The problem with St. Patrick’s Day being honored as a day of feasting, before then, was that it fell during the Christian season of Lent, a period of fasting (both from foods and festivities) and prayer. Often Lent is honored by giving up a vice for forty days and adding something into your life that would bring you closer to God. Irish families decided that St. Patrick’s Day could be a “day off” from Lent, so the Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people could eat a traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.


In the last two centuries, however, St. Patrick’s Day has become more secularized and it more often celebrates Ireland’s culture as a whole, without any religious connotations. People today celebrate by wearing green, dumping green food coloring in their rivers (even though the original color associated with Saint Patrick was blue), throwing a parade and eating corned beef and cabbage.  And, oh yeah, drinking.

I wonder that if over the centuries the generations of people who gave up food and drink for forty days every year helped St. Patrick’s Day come to symbolize a day to “let loose” to the nth degree. Regardless, St. Patrick’s Day is a fun holiday, and in Missoula there is no shortage of great events to attend.

First, check out Run for the Luck of It! 5K, hosted by Run Wild Missoula and starting/ending at Sean Kelley’s: A Public House (130 West Pine St.). Post race food and drinks are provided by Sean Kelley’s, and participants will receive a unique “sham-tastic” beanie and a free Highlander Beer (for those old enough to consume alcohol) courtesy the Missoula Brewing Co. Costumes of the green and leprechaun variety are highly encouraged, and prizes will be awarded to the most-spirited racers. The race starts at 9 a.m.

After the race, stick around downtown for the 31st Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, kicking off at noon. No, the Missoula parade does not have the historical significance Butte’s does – having run continuously since 1882 – but 31 years is a good run and kids love a parade!

And though many of Missoula’s bars will be serving “green beers” and peppermint patty shots up until and including St. Patrick’s Day proper, you might consider a drive down to the Bitterroot Brewery in Hamilton on March 17 to catch their Irish Jam Session, with group Nightingale, while enjoying a pint of Sawtooth Ale.

So tell us, what’s the most you “let loose” on St. Patrick’s Day? We want to know all about your (legal) green-clad adventure!

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Ryan Newhouse has lived in Missoula since 2002 and has tipped his glass in most of the town’s establishments. He is a full-time writer, husband and parent (in no particular order) and a part-time zymurgist. He makes a mean hard cider and pairs his cocktails with dishes from his blog, Cooked Animals: Recipes for Wild Game.