"There's a bit of Irish in all of us," says Noel Cooney, the Dublin-born folksinger and co-owner of Flanagan's Irish Pub on Main Street in this small Pinellas County town.
"And when it comes to Irish music, it's my feeling that ages 3 to 103 enjoy it," Cooney adds.
When he's not on the road, you can find Cooney singing traditional ballads on select weekends at Flanagan's.
This weekend, he'll be out in the city park performing at Flanagan's annual St. Patrick's Day street festival.
This is the weekend when the Irish in all of us comes out. Even pubs that aren't Irish-themed join in the annual tribute to the patron saint of Ireland. Celebrations are planned throughout the Tampa area.
With St. Patrick's Day falling on Sunday, some taverns are gearing up for three days of partying, as some will start the celebration today.
Irish music will be playing almost nonstop on two outdoor stages in Dunedin, beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday. A shorter Saturday festival begins at 5 p.m.
"We keep getting bigger and bigger each year," says Cooney, who presides over an event that draws an estimated 10,000 visitors.
Cooney, his wife, Trina, and her son Dale Ayers are partners in Flanagan's and in running the festival, which is free and features food, vendors and music.
When Cooney first came to America 32 years ago, he traveled the country, performing in Irish pubs. In the 1990s, when Flanagan's was new, Cooney became a frequent entertainer. That's where he met Trina. They dated, got married and bought into the pub, taking it over 16 years ago. They've been hosting a St. Patrick's Day street festival since.
Cooney still travels, playing Orlando, Atlanta, Chicago and other cities. He's at his home base two to three weeks each month. He has a loyal following and takes a group of locals to tour Ireland every two years.
Although some so-called Irish pubs are "Irish" in name only, serving one or two Irish dishes and featuring rock and pop music as entertainment, Flanagan's keeps it authentic.
Cooney is known for engaging the audience, injecting humor and keeping the crowd happy. "After all these years, I still enjoy performing all the Irish songs," he says.
Cooney will perform Saturday and Sunday at the festival. Also performing are the Dunedin Pipe Band, the Irish Buskers, the Fightin' Malones, Celtic Circle, Lucid Druid and Irish dancers.
Here's a list of other places to wear your green, drink green beer, hear bagpipes, and see Irish dancers and the occasional leprechaun:
Rough Riders' St. Patrick's Day Parade rolls through Ybor City Saturday night beginning around 8 p.m. The Rough Riders invite everyone to be Irish for a day and party like it's 1898, when Teddy Roosevelt's boys came to town.
St. Patrick's Day River O'Green Fest returns for a second year at 11 a.m. Saturday at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa). Join Mayor Bob Buckhorn in dyeing the Hillsborough River bright green. Also look for Guinness and Cigar City beer stands, food trucks and music by 3 Pint Harmony. Free.
St. Patrick's Day City Hop is a pub crawl that begins at 6 p.m. Friday in Ybor City. Cost is $20. Begin at Spaghetti Warehouse or Gaspar's Grotto and walk to nearly a dozen stops for food, drink specials and St. Patrick's Day revelry. Benefits Rough Riders charities; (813) 248-1720.
The Dubliner Irish Pubs in Citrus Park and South Tampa will be going at it starting at 11 a.m. today through Sunday. The annual St. Puppy's Day on Saturday starts with an Irish brunch at both locations (also, "most Irish" pet contest). Pubs are at 12836 Henderson Road and 2307 W. Azeele St., Tampa; www.thedublineririshpub.com
Four Green Fields offers only Irish music beginning at noon Sunday. This authentic pub is celebrating its 21st St. Paddy's Day. Irish tunes will play into the night while patrons dine on corned beef, shepherd's pie, and fish and chips. Pat Dunlea, Peter Wrafter and Legacy perform under the thatched roof at 205 W. Platt Street, Tampa. www.tampa.fourgreenfields.com
Luck of the Irish Pub Crawls begin at The Reservoir Bar in Ybor City and Ferg's Sports Bar in St. Petersburg. Both are part of a nationwide network of pubs celebrating the patron saint of Ireland with a progressive party. Tickets are $10 for a two-day all-access pass. The fun starts at noon Saturday and Sunday. For information go to www.pubcrawls.com.
Irish 31 in Hyde Park Village has a two-day PaddyFest street party featuring music, food and games beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday (U2 tribute band Mysterious Ways performs at 9 p.m.) and noon Sunday (Seven Nations hits the stage at 5:15 p.m.). A St. Patrick look-alike contest on Saturday at the bar at 1611 Swann Ave., Tampa, will send the winner to Ireland. www.Irish31.com
The St. Patrick's Day Cruise will let you ride the green tide on the Yacht StarShip out of Channelside. Irish-themed cruises at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday include a festive dinner and cash bar with green beer available. Watch as the Hillsborough River is died green. Price: $49.95, $39.95 children; www.yachtstarship.com
PJ Dolan's Irish Pub & Grille in New Tampa will have an Irish breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Food and music will continue inside and under a big tent both days. There will be prizes for those singing their best Irish songs in leprechaun outfits. 2836 E. Bearss Ave. (813)-374-2338; www.pjdolans.com
Maloney's Local Irish Pub, one of several that lay claim to "The Biggest" St. Patrick's Day celebration," will host a pet-and-family-friendly bash during the day that spills out into the Westchase Village street. The party starts at 11 a.m. Sunday with music, Irish food and games. There is a $10 cover charge after 3 p.m. and it's adults-only inside. The Black Honkeys headline. www.maloneyslocalirishpub.com
Shamrocks & Shenanigans is the theme of the Bay Area Renaissance Festival under way at the Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday and Sunday. On the bill are Irish games, free beer tastings, a Celtic village, a mashed potato-eating contest and a men-in-kilts contest. Admission is $18.95 for adults; $14.95 for seniors and students; $10,95 for kids ages 5 and up; and $10 for dogs.
O'Keefe's Family Tavern and Grille in downtown Clearwater kicks off its annual St. Patrick's Day Weekend Party at 5 p.m. today under a big tent outside. It continues through Sunday. Often billed as the area's largest St. Patrick's Party, O'Keefe's serves "tons of corned beef and cabbage" and gallons of green beer. Located at 1219 S Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater; www.okeefestavernonline.com
An Irish concert with award-winning Ceilidh fiddler Andrea Beaton is at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Palladium in St. Petersburg. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show at 253 Fifth Ave. N. Call (727) 822-3590; www.spcollege.edu/palladiumnew
"Andy Cooney's Forever Irish" at 1 p.m. Monday in Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, features the singer/entertainer leading a cast of performers in a tribute to the Emerald Isle. Tickets start at $18.
MacDinton's Irish Pub and Restaurant in SoHo hosts one of the largest St Patrick's celebrations in the area with a day of live music, Irish dancers, bagpipers, corned beef and cabbage and, of course, Guinness. Things get started at 9 a.m. at the pub at 405 S. Howard Ave., Tampa; (813) 251-8999 and www.macdintons.com. Its sister pub MacDinton's Jannus, 242 First Ave. N., St. Petersburg, is having a similar celebration with live music on two stages Sunday. It also is having a "St. Practice Day" on Saturday to prime patrons for Sunday's blowout; www.macdintons.com/Jannus-St-Petersburg
Third annual St. Patty's Day Party: Featuring live music and performances by Hollywood and Broken Note, JB Crocket band and NKahootz; 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; free; Tadpoles, 115 E. Brandon Blvd., Brandon; (813) 662-3764
Paddy's in the Park: Benefiting Village Partners International and St. John Vianney School, this event includes an Irish dance exhibition, bagpipers, bounce houses, face painting and live entertainment; performances include Zack Biss, Seven Nations, Scariff Hardiman Dance Expo, Seven Nations, Sunburn, Jeremy Thomas Band and Soul Circus Cowboys; 10 a.m. Sunday; free; Horan Park, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive, St. Petersburg; (727) 851-9955
St. Patrick's Days Bash: Celebrate the Irish holiday with games, leaping leprechauns, live music and drinks; 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; free to $5; Mulligans Irish Pub at Wentworth, 2990 Wentworth Way, Tarpon Springs; (727) 942-4760.
St. Patrick's Day 2013: Includes four tents with food, full liquor, beer, a photo booth, free face painting and five bands, including the Greg Billings Band; 7 p.m. today, 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; free; Cricketers British Pub & Restaurant, 2634 Bayshore Blvd., Dunedin; (727) 736-1322
Other Tampa area pubs celebrating: The Pub at International Mall; O'Brien's Irish Pubs in Carrollwood, Plant City and Brandon (www.obrienspubs.com); and O'Toole's Irish Pub in Brandon (www.otoolesirishbar.com)