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Tosa rolling out its green carpet for St. Paddy's Day

March 14, 2012

From the Blarney Run to the Shamrock Club's west side parade along Bluemound Road and establishments like Mo's Irish Pub and Leff's Lucky Town, it's easy to see that Wauwatosa embraces Irish culture.

A new family-friendly event, Turning the Village Green, will add to the Celtic celebration from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Few Tosans realize the headquarters of the largest Irish music festival in the United States - Milwaukee Irish Fest - can be found in the Village, said festival Executive Director Jane Mullaney Anderson as she gave me a tour of the Irish Fest Center, 1532 Wauwatosa Ave.

"A lot of people wonder what's going on in here," she said.

To change that, Irish Fest teamed up with the Village Business Improvement District, Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce and Wauwatosa NOW to organize and promote a St. Patrick's Day event that provides insight into Irish and Irish-American culture.

The holiday is more than just drinking a green beer or wearing kiss-me-I'm-Irish buttons. That's the modern-day American version of the holiday. In fact, in Ireland they've started getting more commercial as a reflection of the celebration in the States, Mullaney Anderson said.

Traditionally, the holiday is a religious observance of St. Patrick and the peace he brought to the country, she said. Feasts and church services of all denominations are held is his honor.

So much to do!

Start the day out with an Irish breakfast at Chancery Family Pub and Restaurant, 7613 W. State St., with music and coloring pages for kids. Irish Fest leprechaun mascots Paddy and Molly McFest will be stopping by. Next door, the Little Read Book, 7603 W. State St., will offer Irish-themed story readings.

Get creative at Go Green, 7505 Harwood Ave., with environmentally friendly crafts or channel your inner Picasso with a St. Patrick's Day-themed painting session at 11 a.m. at Arte, 7511 Harwood Ave.

The Irish Fest Center will provide dancing performances, a drum workshop, demonstrations of lace-making and weaving, and tea times with scones and soda bread. Harpist Dorothy Walsh will perform at 1:30 p.m.

Family pride

While planning for Turning the Village Green, talks turned to the large population of people with Irish ancestry living in Wauwatosa. Irish comes in second only to German when it comes to the ethnic ancestry of Tosa residents, according to the latest U.S. Census numbers.

Many of the founders of the Shamrock Club, which was the force behind founding Milwaukee Irish Fest, called Wauwatosa home. It was no coincidence that the Irish Fest Center ended up in Wauwatosa, said Alderman Dennis McBride, a volunteer at the annual festival and bit of an Irish historian.

The McBrides count among the three Tosa families with Irish roots featured in this week's NOW. In this issue, readers also will learn about the Foleys and the Leahys. Each family is proud of their heritage and their community, making them perfect representatives for the Irish of Wauwatosa.

Contact reporter Stefanie Scott at sscott@cninow.com. You can follow Stefanie's coverage of Wauwatosa online at WauwatosaNOW.com and by following her on Twitter, @TosaReporter.

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