Saturday’s crowd at the St. Patrick’s Day Festival was seeing green.
Between green decor, ensembles, food and the famous green beer, Lake Sumter Landing Market Square was covered in various hues and shades of the color. For many celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on the square, it was all about celebrating Irish culture, taking in great entertainment and enjoying drinks, but especially coming together as a community. “It’s fun to see people celebrating their heritage,” said Vanessa Nettles, who came from Texas to visit her sisters. “The beer is festive, the music and atmosphere are great and I have the best company.” She was impressed to see all the market and food vendors on the square.
“It’s a great blend of items to purchase, free entertainment and space to roam,” she said. “Anytime I’m in town, I’ll come back to another festival.”
Maryanne Marrone and Rodrick Barnes also enjoyed seeing people come together to celebrate.
They were both clad in festive green outfits, featuring sequins, shamrocks and a green feather boa.
Every year, the couple dresses up for each Villages celebration, but this one is special because Barnes is Irish.
“We love the music, the activities and Lake Sumter,” said Marrone, of the Village of Monarch Grove. “These festivals are the essence of living in The Villages. If residents don’t come, they are really missing out.” Marrone said she especially loved listening to the main entertainment of the evening, Celtic Rock Group, Cleghorn.
“They are really great, especially for a three piece band,” she said.
Even though Villages resident lifestyle group Sounds of Scotland isn’t strictly Irish, it gave a stellar performance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and impressed the crowd.
As soon as the group started beating the drums and playing the bagpipes, everyone’s attention was on the members.
The group performed classics like “Danny Boy” and “Amazing Grace,” among others.
Audiences gave a wealth of applause for the group’s dedicated performance.
“I loved it,” said Patti McCarthy of The Village of Pennecamp. “I grew up listening to the bagpipes. My mom’s cousin played.”
She said the performance brought her back to the time she visited Scotland a few years ago.
“This festival is a nice way to celebrate our Irish heritage,” she said. “It’s a beautiful day and I like seeing people enjoy themselves.”
Other resident lifestyle groups included English Country Dancers, The Villages Twirlers Show Team and Drum Corps, Viva Flamenco and others.
McCarthy said she is looking forward to seeing her husband march with the FDNY 343 Memorial Club in the St. Patrick’s Day parade at 3 p.m. Friday at Spanish Springs Square.
McCarthy wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the group.
“The bag pipes were awesome,” said Tony McMaster, who is renting with Eileen McMaster in the Village of Labelle.
This is their second time coming to The Villages.
“It’s not called America’s Friendliest Hometown without reason,” Eileen said. “People are so welcoming and just come up and start talking to you.”
The McMasters were celebrating with Jay Haller, of the Village of Pine Ridge, among other family and friends. The group said they enjoyed all of the performers.
“The stilt walkers are always here at the festivals, so I had to go find them,” Haller said. “It’s nice having this entertainment.”
Each said they enjoy seeing the friendly faces and drinks.
“You can’t not have a good time here,” Tony said.
Eileen said she enjoys seeing everyone gathered together.
“I love when all the Villagers dress up and embrace the event,” she said. “They all have festive hats, glasses or shirts. It’s like they are kids again.”
St. Patrick’s Day isn’t over in The Villages quite yet.
Residents and visitors can look forward to the second festival from 4 to 9 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day at Spanish Springs Town Square.
The event will begin with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade from 3 to 4 p.m., which features Villages resident lifestyle clubs.
After the parade, the Byrne Brothers will perform along with lifestyle resident performers, Sounds of Scotland, The Villages Cheerleaders, the Pacific Paradise Dancers and the Prime Time Twirlers.
Sawgrass Grove will hold its first St. Patrick’s Day Bash from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, beginning with the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser Clydesdales parading down Meggison Road starting at 11:30 a.m. and ending at Ezell Recreation.
Event-goers will have an opportunity to take photos with the Clydesdales and Dalmations until 1 p.m. Sounds of Scotland will perform at noon, followed by strolling bagpiper John Mister from 1 to 4 p.m. and FiddleRat with live bluegrass music from 5 to 9 p.m.
The event will feature plenty of festive food and drink, including corned beef and cabbage, green beer and Teeling Whiskey green tea shots at McGrady’s Pub.
Parking is first come, first served and large crowds are expected, so carpooling, driving golf cars, biking or walking to the event are recommended.
Overnight parking is not allowed.