March 19, 2016
The Saint Patrick’s Day holiday is always well celebrated in Key West, of course the local Irish bars all host some sort of event and the annual St. Patrick’s Day Bar Stroll is always held on the Saturday afternoon that falls closest to the 17th. This year marked the 38th year that the annual bar stroll has been held and probably about the 20th that I have attended. It is another in a long line of fun annual events in Key West.
Organized by my friend Rick, the bar stroll got its start as an actual race, then called the “Suds Run” between various bars where at each stop the participants had to guzzle a beer and then run to the next location. It was this way for a few years before evolving in to a stroll which increased participation and reduced the amount of puking along the way significantly. My friend and former employer at the old Waterfront Market, Buco, won the first suds run and has for thirty-eight years been issued entry number 001 ever since. I am not sure if I would have been up to the old style racing, but the stroll I can manage just fine.
Now the event draws literally thousands of participants a good mix of long-time locals and tourist who just happen to stumble upon it. This year’s ticket sales benefited the local Boys and Girls Club and the Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys. The thirty dollar tickets got each participant a free t-shirt as well as a punch card listing the various bars that were involved at which one free beer per person was available.
The ten bars featured this year included a number of old favorites as well as a few newcomers which always makes for a good mix. The stroll started once again at the Southernmost Beach Café before heading off to The Salty Angler, McConnell’s, the Back Bar at Aqua, the new Rumrunners (formerly Cowboy Bill’s), the Hard Rock Café, the Bull and Whistle, the newly opened Gas Monkey, Rick’s and concluding at the Schooner Wharf Bar.
I was down at the Southernmost Beach Café for the beginning of the stroll early to see my many local friends who were going to be strolling. I always enjoy the start as the throngs are gathered all in one place and all in a fun and festive mood. There are also always a large number of interlopers who do not buy tickets but just show up and follow along the route to have a good time. They are often wearing matching team t-shirts rather than the official shirts. I respect that they want to have fun, but think it is somewhat unfortunate that they do not add anything to the charitable aspect of the day. I always wear the official gear and support the charities that benefit from the walk.
This year I only made it just past halfway on the stroll as I had a large amount of yard work to do and I did not want to take up the entire day with the event as can easily happen. I am glad that I went though and really enjoy watching all the crazy green clad people enjoying themselves. As the stroll spread out just about every place on Duval Street fills with marchers and the bars and businesses that are not official stops still do very well with the crowds.
Kathy’s father, Jim concluded his three week visit to us this week with a trip with Kathy out to the Dry Tortugas National Park aboard the Yankee Freedom catamaran. The day-long trip was a great time as they both enjoyed touring Fort Jefferson, which is the centerpiece of the National Park. They also managed to get in some snorkeling and lounging on the beautiful beach that is there. It was a picture perfect day at one of Kathy’s favorite places on earth and it was great to have Jim along. He had not been out to the Tortugas for many years.
The small group of islands and surrounding waters are located about 75 miles west of Key West and are home to a beautiful array of birds, both residents and migratory species as well as a beautiful coral reef that is the nicest in the Keys and the plethora of marine life that is found in the protected area. There is even a resident saltwater crocodile which sadly they did not spot on this trip out.
It was the perfect culmination to Jim’s time here. We had a great visit and are looking very much forward to seeing him again this summer. Kathy will probably see him next in Colorado when she heads out in May for our niece’s high school graduation.