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Shamrocks and Shindigs

For everyone who believes there are only two kinds of people in the world — those who are Irish and those who wish they were — the 918 has plenty of options for St. Patrick’s Day.

Rachel Wright
February 15, 2017

One of Tulsa’s most celebrated holidays is upon us. Grab a Guinness and your favorite green attire, because this St. Patrick’s Day, Tulsa has a lineup of fun that’ll have you feeling like you’ve found the end of the rainbow.

The Oklahoma-Ireland relationship isn’t widely known, despite Ireland’s traditions being well embraced in the Sooner State. Here’s a quick rundown that’ll help you impress your friends.

Oklahoma’s history with Ireland is richer than most think, with the earliest Irish settlers arriving in the early 1800s in search of work in the trapping and trading industry. Over time, they were stationed with the U.S. Army throughout Indian Territory, and the two cultures combined in many documented instances. According to The Oklahoma Historical Society, many of the American Indians who were forcibly moved to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears had an Irish parent.

Irish immigrants were enthusiastic in Oklahoma land runs, establishing permanent residences too. By the 2000 census, more than 10 percent of Oklahomans reported Irish ancestry.

Tom Hinchey, president of the Irish American Club of Tulsa and second generation Irish, remembers coming to Tulsa in 1974. One of his first St. Paddy nights out in T-Town inspired the club that’s about to celebrate its 40th year.

“It was March 17, 1977, and we were out partying at a bar,” Hinchey remembers. “We had a few too many but just enough to be right. We started singing Irish songs and getting everyone to join in. Someone said we needed an Irish Club, so I took it as a challenge and we’ve been going since October of that year.”

The club of roughly 60 members meets regularly, hosts weekly Irish dancing classes and Irish cooking contests, and works events year-round to raise money for its annual St. Patrick’s Dinner Show, this year on Saturday, March 11, from 6-9 p.m. at the American Legion Post 308 Hall.

The Goode Academy of Irish Dance, McTeggart Irish Dancers of Oklahoma and Ryan-Johnson Irish Fiddlers will perform this year. Tickets are available for $18 per adult and $10 per child under 12. Included is a dinner choice of corned beef and cabbage or Irish stew, which Hinchey says is “some of the best you’ll ever have, prepared fresh that day.”

“The dancing is incredible and so are the fiddlers. People really seem to enjoy it when those kids get kicking high,” says Hinchey. “Two of our members, Dalton and Justin, lead Irish sing-alongs. We have song books on each table with traditional Irish-American song lyrics so everyone can join in.”

Hinchey and his team consider their event a kickoff to St. Patrick’s Day in Tulsa. They enjoy attending events around town March 17 — and have for years. He remembers his first time at Arnie’s, March 17, 1975.

“I couldn’t believe it until I saw it,” Hinchey recalls. “They only opened the bar on St. Patrick’s Day. It was just an alley between two buildings that someone put a roof and a door on. It was crazy, just elbow-to-elbow in there. But it was something you always did in Tulsa on St. Patrick’s Day, going to Arnie’s for a drink.”

 While the location may have changed since Hinchey first visited Arnie’s, the sentiment remains the same. Arnie’s
— now in the Blue Dome District — is open daily and has more room for crowds. It’s a good thing because it’s one of Tulsa’s most popular St. Patrick’s Day spots.

Free entry, live music, shuffleboard, darts and all the Irish draft beers you need make Arnie’s a must on any bar hopper’s list. Setting up shop at Arnie’s puts you right in the middle of all the action downtown with many of the roads in the five-block district closed for block parties, a parade and pub crawls.

Arnie's is one of Tulsa’s most popular St. Patrick’s Day spots in the Blue Dome District.

McNellie’s downtown is also a big player in the St. Paddy’s party, which goes from morning until night March 17-18. The traditional Irish pub usually has a semi-trailer truck featuring 30 taps and 100 kegs of beer parked outside after you’ve enjoyed enough fish and chips, cottage pie and bangers and mash inside.

Kilkenny’s on Cherry Street is another notorious spot for St. Patrick’s Day fun. Enjoy a pint and potato soup or another choice from their extensive traditional Irish menu, and then head outside to the party tent for live music and festivities going until 2 a.m.

You won’t be able to miss Tulsa Metro Pipe Band’s annual Tour de Tulsa. The bagpipe and drum band will visit several locations throughout the Blue Dome District March 17 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. including the St. Patrick’s Day March starting at 1 p.m. from Arnie’s Bar to City Hall and back, alongside Irish bands, color guards and oats. That afternoon, they’ll perform at assorted venues on Cherry Street, starting with Kilkenny’s at 2 p.m.