Middle Georgia town celebrates Irish roots for St. Patrick’s Day — minus the booze

Watch how thousands of pancakes get cooked at Dublin St. Patrick’s Festival

The Dublin Exchange Club annually cooks thousands of pancakes for pancake supper, a longtime event of the St. Patrick's Festival.
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The Dublin Exchange Club annually cooks thousands of pancakes for pancake supper, a longtime event of the St. Patrick's Festival.

St. Patrick’s Day is largely associated with the color green and drinking beer — and often drinking green beer — but Dublin, Georgia, takes a different approach.

For 54 years the city has prided itself on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in a family friendly manner. While the color green certainly abounds, alcohol is banned from all but one of the 40 events. Miriam Ponton, assistant director of Visit Dublin, said that has helped make the festival something that the entire community gets behind.

“It’s just synonymous with what Dublin is and people want to continue with the history and heritage of what Dublin is,” she said. “It brings people together no matter where they are from.”

She said families from Savannah, which has the third largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country, come to the Dublin parade because it’s more suitable for children.

Jason Keyton, chairman of the Dublin festival, went to the Savannah parade as a college student and can attest to the difference.

“It’s a lot of more geared toward adults drinking,” he said of the Savannah parade. “You basically walk from one pub to the other, drinking.”

While St. Patrick’s Day is Sunday, the big day in Dublin is Saturday. It includes a parade downtown that starts at 10:30 a.m., and an arts and crafts festival from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., along with numerous other events.

Ponton said Dublin’s is the longest running St. Patrick’s festival at least in Georgia. Events began Feb. 16 and run through March 23.

Keyton said planning begins about 10 months in advance. It’s put on entirely by volunteers.

“When I got involved I never realized how much time and how much energy it really takes to make this festival work,” Keyton said. “Plus I love seeing people come together.”

A big event for the festival was held Thursday, which was the annual pancake supper put on by the Exchange Club. They cooked 1,200 pounds of sausage, and many thousands of pancakes to feed and estimated 4,500 people. Proceeds go toward Exchange Club charities, including child abuse prevention.

Larry Schenck has been cooking pancakes for the supper for many years.

“It’s always one of the premiere events of the St. Patrick’s festival,” Schenck said as he prepared one of 10 giant, rotating griddles to start cooking pancakes.

The town’s founder, Jonathan Sawyer, had long been thought to be a native of Dublin, Ireland, thus the name. But local historian Scott Thompson said Sawyer was actually from Massachusetts. His wife’s ancestors were from Dublin, Ireland, and he named the town in honor of her after she died in childbirth.