Joe Gray takes a pan of cooked vegetables to add into his stew during the Irish Stew Cook-Off at the Murphysboro St. Patrick’s Day Celebration on Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Murphysboro, Ill. This is Gray’s third time competing in the cook-off. “We tied for first place our first year,” Gray said. “You never know what will happen, it all depends on the judges.” (Jared Treece | @bisalo)
Joe Gray takes a pan of cooked vegetables to add into his stew during the Irish Stew Cook-Off at the Murphysboro St. Patrick’s Day Celebration on Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Murphysboro, Ill. This is Gray’s third time competing in the cook-off. “We tied for first place our first year,” Gray said. “You never know what will happen, it all depends on the judges.”

Jared Treece | @bisalo

Murphysboro St. Patrick’s festival represents ‘small town America at its best’

March 20, 2021

The first day of spring air in Murphysboro, Ill. was permeated with the scent of corned beef cooking and with the laughter of revellers celebrating St. Patrick’s Day downtown March 20.

Chris Bishop

Brews Brothers Taproom has played host to the celebration for the past five years, according to co-owner Rachel Fager, with this year’s festivities looking similar to the previous years’ except with social distancing and face masks.

“We have a lot of rules to follow this year,” Fager said. “We’ve worked with the health department to really try to do all of the things we can do to keep it safe, but I feel like, so far so good.”

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The 5k fun run, which typically occurs through downtown, was held virtually and several other planned events had to be cancelled in order to stay within the health department’s COVID guidelines, said Fager.

Even still, a decent crowd of people came to participate in bags, tricycle races and enjoy green beer.

For Joe Melvin, attending the St. Patrick’s Day festivities is a family tradition.

“My dad used to dye his hair green, was all green and would walk up and down the streets. He was very well known for it,” Melvin said. “I carried it on for a little bit”

For the Murphysboro native, the festival is his favorite event the city holds.

“I like it better than Apple Festival and all of them, I like it better. This is just a fun time,” Melvin said. “I’m local. I’m born and raised here. My dad was born and raised here, my grandfather was born and raised here. It goes back quite a ways, the Irish tradition, that’s what I was raised with. Along with being a Red Devil fan. I can’t answer it, it’s just what we do.”

The festival continues to build strong familial memories for Melvin and his family as he participated in a tricycle race with his grandkids at the festival.

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“I came in third. Third out of three people. It was fun and I enjoyed doing it,” Melvin said with a laugh.

Hosting the festival this year was a relief for Fager, since this was the last event the bar was able to hold before everything shut down last year.

“This was the last party we got to have last year, before being shut down,” Fager said. “We’ve gone the whole year without getting to have anything, but now, here we are, holding St. Patrick’s day, so that’s nice. Kind of starting to see that light at the end of the tunnel, so that’s nice”

Despite the smaller crowd in attendance this year, for Melvin, the event is still something to be enjoyed.

“This is small town America at its best,” Melvin said. “You look out there, the crowd is down because of COVID and there’s a football game going on, there wasn’t a parade, there’s usually a run, but it was virtual this year, a lot of those people usually hang around, it’s down, but it’s a good crowd and it’s a beautiful day.”

Managing Editor Nicolas Galindo can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter & Instagram @ngalindophoto. 

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