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Even if it rains, Dublin's St. Patrick's Day parade starts at 9:30 a.m. today

Irish-founded city hosting early holiday celebration all weekend

Dublin is hosting its 33rd annual St. Patrick's Day celebration this weekend with its festive parade -- the second largest on the West Coast -- starting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday on Dublin Boulevard and Village Parkway.

What if it rains? Nothing! The event is always held rain or shine. The parade, the breakfast, the festival, and the Shamrock 5K Fun Run and Walk all happen regardless of the weather.

"The event is a great way to celebrate our heritage," Dublin Mayor David Haubert said. "It's been a longstanding tradition, and I look forward to attending this event every year."

Dublin was founded by Irish settlers in the late 1800s, and the historical and cultural traditions that are celebrated in the Republic of Ireland's capital city continue to be recognized in the Tri-Valley city of the same name, especially around St. Patrick's Day.

The weekend-long Irish celebration, set to run through this Sunday, draws thousands of people to Dublin every year.

"Our staff does a great job at making the St. Patrick's Day celebration bigger and better each year. It is something the entire community can participate in," Haubert said.

Participants can start the celebration off at the Dublin Sister City Association's annual Green and White Gala Friday at 6 p.m., beginning with an Irish happy hour and followed by dinner and dancing.

The party continues Saturday morning when St. Patrick's Day Festival-goers can satisfy their hunger with some green pancakes, sausages and eggs with Alameda County firefighters at the local fire station on Donahue Drive from 7-10 a.m.

Tickets cost $5 at the door, and all proceeds go towards the Alameda County Firefighters Local 55 charity fund.

As the pancake breakfast winds down, the parade line picks up.

The Dublin Lions Club is sponsoring Dublin's St. Patrick's Day parade for the 33rd year, a well-known kick off to the weekend's Irish festivities.

The parade is set to feature 80 participant groups, including Scouts, youth sports teams, private businesses, nonprofits, horse riders, clowns and local politicians -- such as the mayor, Dublin City Council members and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

"This parade is the second largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the West Coast area -- the first being San Francisco's annual celebration," said Bill Burnham, activities director for the Dublin Lions Club and the Dublin parade director.

Former Mayor Tim Sbranti will be the parade announcer and former Mayor Peter Snider, who helped spearhead BART expanding to Dublin, will serve as grand marshal.

"Peter Snider was the person who came to me and said that we needed to start a St. Patrick's Day parade 33 years ago," Burnham said. "The hometown parade does not have any judges and is fun for kids and all ages to enjoy."

The Saturday morning parade helps usher in the annual St. Patrick's Day Festival, which runs both days at the Dublin Civic Center and features music, Irish dancing, carnival rides, international food and drinks and more than 250 vendor booths.

One of the musical acts will be Jeff Campbell, known as "The Bagpiper" and a veteran performer at the Dublin event.

"I have been performing at this festival for five years now," Campbell said. "I keep coming back because it's a fun, enjoyable festival. I get to meet a lot of cool people, and my music is well-received by the crowd."

Campbell, who has more than 30 years of piping experience, will be performing popular Irish tunes such as "Danny Boy" and "When Irish Eyes are Smiling."

Festival attendees can also head over to the dance stage both days to watch competitive Irish dancers. Sunday's show lineup includes dancers from the McBride School of Irish Dance tapping their toes from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Amador Valley High grad Clare O'Leary, a former McBride School dancer, recalled fondly her years performing at the St. Patrick's Day celebration from 2001 until stepping away from dancing three years ago.

"Although I am no longer competing, I will always consider myself an Irish dancer," O'Leary said. "Irish dancing is an amazing way to express and represent my culture. Even though I don't live in Ireland, I am constantly connected to my heritage -- from the music to the traditional costumes and dance steps."

Vendors with Irish-themed arts and crafts will be among the people selling various items during the two-day festival.

Celtic Art Studio, for the third year in a row, will be selling original, limited-edition Celtic art inspired by mythology and symbolism and created by Welsh artist, Jen Delyth. Co-owner Chris Chandler said he has noticed an increase in sales each year shortly after participating as a vendor at the event.

"We do a fair amount of online mail orders in our business, and we get a lot of customers from the Dublin area who attended the event and visited our booth," Chandler said.

After enjoying the arts and crafts for sale, festival-goers can sample Irish menu items from longtime event food vendors such as Proverb Foods, which will be selling Irish bangers and mash with apple cider gravy, grilled bangers with bell peppers and onions, and Irish Guinness and cheese nachos.

"The St. Patrick's Day event is one of the most fun events of the year," said Lori Strong, director of operations with Proverbs Foods. "The city of Dublin does an extraordinary job creating and managing the event."

Another activity this weekend is the Shamrock 5K Fun Run and Walk on Sunday morning on Dublin Boulevard. Registration starts at 7:15 a.m., and the race start is at 8:30 a.m.

"For our 18th year having the race at this event, we expect 2,400 participants either running or walking, which is great," race director Damian Sandholm said.

Participants will be given a race bib and a t-shirt during registration. Children who complete the race will be given a participation ribbon.

"The race is a great way to gather people together and build community and fitness," Sandholm said. Individual timed racers can participate for $25 and non-timed racers can register for $23. Of the race proceeds, $2,000 will be donated evenly among the local elementary schools in Dublin.

The St. Patrick's Day celebration wraps up when the festival concludes at 5 p.m. Sunday. For more details on all the festivities, visit www.dublinca.gov.

Event schedule

Friday

* Green and White Gala, Dublin Senior Center: 6 p.m.

Saturday

* Alameda County Firefighters' Pancake Breakfast, Fire Station No. 16 on Donahue Drive: 7-10 a.m.

* St. Patrick's Day Parade, from Amador Plaza to Dublin Boulevard to Village Parkway to Amador Valley Boulevard: 9:30 a.m.

* St. Patrick's Day Festival, Dublin Civic Center: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday

* Shamrock 5K Fun Run and Walk, begins on Dublin Boulevard at Civic Plaza: 8:30 a.m.

* St. Patrick's Day Festival, Dublin Civic Center: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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