PITTSFIELD -- The people that will pack the bars for St. Patrick's Day celebrations this weekend might be French, Spanish, Korean or Brazilian -- and not have a shred of Irish in their blood.
But according to Robert Dwyer, the president of the Irish Sister City Committee, "Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day."
"We don't ask, we just accept everybody," said Dwyer, who's 100 percent Irish.
On March 17, Irish descendants honor St. Patrick on the saint's anniversary of his death in the fifth century with festivities. Non-Irish residents honor another excuse to party and drink beer. And Berkshire pubs, bars and businesses rake in the green from both sides of the lineage.
"It's one of the most fun holidays of the year," Dwyer said. "Being Irish, you're always up for a good time, but it's a good time to get together."
Only 38 percent of Berkshire residents are Irish descent, according to Kevin Cahill. Many of the earlier Irish immigrants traveled here before the 1880s and came from eastern Ireland, he said, but little is known outside of that.
"The history of the Irish in Pittsfield still needs to be written," Cahill said.
Over the holiday weekend, the Irish Sister City Committee will host three dignitaries from Ballina, Pittsfield's sister city in Ireland: Two former Ballina mayors, Mary Kelly and Peter Clarke, and Orla Bourke, the town engineer.
On Friday, the trio visited Pittsfield City Hall. Today, they will travel to Albany,
It was Clarke's first time visiting Pittsfield, and was greeted with an "overwhelming reception" and lots of green, he said.
"Everywhere I go, I see American flags and Irish flags," Clarke said with a thick Irish accent. "People can relate to Irish people. We're very positive people, and we do enjoy ourselves. We do like to go out, have a drink, have a laugh, let our hair down."
Berkshire residents will do just that this weekend, packing the pubs throughout the Berkshires.
Since St. Patrick's Day is on a Sunday this year, its hard to predict what kind of business Patrick's Pub in downtown Pittsfield will encounter, floor manager Shannon Smith said.
"We're used to it being on a weekend or during the week," Smith said. "Being on a Sunday, we're not really sure if people are going to celebrate [Friday] and Saturday instead."
A live band will play Irish music at Patrick's Pub on Sunday to go along with the popular Irish dish, corned beef and cabbage.
By Friday, the St. Patrick's Day festivities had already clogged The Shamrock Restaurant and Pub, according to chef-manager Jerry Roberts.
Over the weekend, the small Irish pub that seats about 36 will almost always stay packed, mostly with regulars, but a few new faces, Roberts said.
"People will stay a little longer and party longer," he said. "Dalton has a large Irish population -- I would guess about 50 percent.
O'Laughlin's Pub on Merrill Road is also expecting "completely packed" this weekend, said Nikki Frambach, a bartender.
"For St. Paddy's Day, we get everyone who want's to be Irish," she said.
Alan Greaves, the owner of Brits ‘R' Us on North Street, moved to the Berkshires from Sheffield, England, in 1999. His store has plenty of Irish teas, cookies, and for St. Patrick's Day, holiday swag and decorations.
Since moving to the Berkshires, Greaves has noticed that many of his customers have a special interest in Irish heritage, specifically around this time of year.
"Everyone seems to think they have a little Irish in them," Greaves said. "Usually it's their great-great grandmother's cousin's next-door neighbor."
To reach Adam Poulisse:
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Irish in the U.S., by the numbers:
n 34.5 million residents claimed Irish ancestry in 2011, more than seven times the population of Ireland itself -- 4.68 million. Irish was the nation's second-most frequently reported ancestry behind German.
n 150,990 is the number of Irish-born naturalized U.S. residents in 2011.
n 39.3 years old is the median age of U.S. residents who claim Irish ancestry, which is higher than the U.S. residents median age as a whole (37.3 years old).
n There are seven places in the United States named Shamrock, the floral emblem of Ireland: West Virginia, Texas, Indiana, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Nebraska and Missouri.
n There are 13 places in the U.S. named Dublin, after Ireland's capital.
n From February to March 2012, the value of U.S. imports of beer made from malt increased from $288 million to $374 million.
n The total value of imports from Ireland to the U.S. in 2011 totaled $39.4 billion.
-- Source: U.S. Census Bureau