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Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
From left, Dan Wyss, Kathy Cass and Mark Cass raise their glasses to County Cork, Ireland, where the Cass family hails from, at JK O’Donnell’s.

Celebrating their Irish roots

Revelers tip glasses to history in St. Patrick’s Day pub visits

The holiday’s not just for drinkers: Makayla Hardesty, 3, shows off the leprechaun tattoo she got at the pub on Sunday.
From left, Emily Osborn, Gregg Osborn and Ellen Barnes-Osborn celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at JK O’Donnell’s in honor of Irish ancestor Brinsley Barnes.
Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Bill Fleming pulls revelers with his garden tractor during the People’s Parade on Sunday at Deer Park Irish Pub.

Ellen Osborn had a specific toast in mind as she raised her glass with her husband and daughter at JK O’Donnell’s on Sunday afternoon.

“To Brinsley Barnes!” she said, as she clinked her plastic glass against her family members’ cups.

St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone is Irish, even if you have a surname such as Russo or Garcia. For those with Irish heritage, however, the day can have meaning beyond “Let’s start drinking at 9 a.m.”

Osborn’s father, Warren Barnes, for example, is interested in his family’s Irish heritage, Osborn said. Recently, through genealogy research, Warren Barnes found paperwork that showed immigrant Brinsley Barnes was baptized in Ireland in 1713, making Osborn a ninth-generation Barnes.

“So we’re here to toast today to Brinsley Barnes, commemorating 300 years,” she said. “My father plans on traveling to Ireland next year to go to the church that the baptism took place.”

The Osborns, of Fort Wayne, celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a little help from Dad, who sends his children and grandchildren St. Patrick’s Day cards. Once each turns 21, the card also includes a $5 bill – so each can have a St. Patrick’s Day drink on him.

Kathy Cass and her husband, Mark, celebrated the day at JK O’Donnell’s, too. The couple went on their first date five years ago on St. Patrick’s Day at Flanagan’s Restaurant and Pub and Covington Bar & Grill, “So that makes it special, too,” said Kathy, who says she always celebrates St. Patrick’s Day.

She is three-quarters Irish; her paternal grandmother came to the United States from County Cork, which makes up the southern tip of Ireland, when she was 17. Her mother’s great-aunts and great-uncles came to the United States from the same county, as did her husband’s great-grandfather.

“Generally, we just like to get together with friends and family and enjoy the day,” she said.

Others weren’t so lucky as to grow up with the knowledge of their family heritage. Justin O’Brien said didn’t find out until he subscribed to a few years ago that his Irish heritage dates back to 1843 in Dublin, where he had a grandfather – he was unsure how many generations ago – who brewed beer.

The crowd at JK’s seemed large for a Sunday afternoon, when the restaurant is typically closed. There was standing-room only inside the bar. But it wasn’t as busy as it normally is for St. Patrick’s Day, said O’Brien, who was gathered with his friends at a highboy table in the large tent that took up most of the block on Wayne Street in front of JK’s.

“It’s very weak,” he said of the crowd. “A lot of people went out last night to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.”

Jim Garigen wondered, too, whether the St. Patrick’s Day crowd wasn’t up-to-par: It’s a Sunday, he pointed out. A church day. During Lent.

For the first time in years, Garigen and his wife, Michelle, went out for the Irish holiday. The two stopped by Deer Park Irish Pub for a foamy green beer before other plans later in the afternoon. They said they would stop by the Affine Food Truck at O’Sullivan’s Italian Irish Pub later in the evening.

As a boy, Garigen’s family often celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with his blended family. Mom and Dad were each part Irish, and the family celebrated with corned beef and cabbage or colcannon, a dish that mixes mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage, that his mother would dye green.

Garigen said his father built a gazebo in the backyard, where extended family members would gather for holidays, and St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t be complete without green beer Dad got from a friend of his who owned a bar.

At the pub, Garigen said he wasn’t expecting to see so many people dressed up. There were the dogs dyed green, a Santa with the red shorts and suspenders over his emerald green shirt. There were more styles of green hats than you’d ever expect to see – ball caps, sequined top hats, leprechaun-style hats with gold buckles, pimp hats covered in a shamrock pattern with fluff lining the wide brim. There were green beads, green shirts, green tights, green sunglasses and green beer.

“I didn’t realize there were so many people into the holiday with the attire and the hats,” he said. “It’s like Halloween.”