February 29, 2012

Reclaiming St. Patrick’s Day, without the booze

For a holiday that has become synonymous with binge drinking, St. Patrick’s Day has lost its true meaning through the years, say those who are the minds behind New York City’s first annual “Sober St. Patrick’s Day.”

On March 17 at Regis High School, 60 E. 85th St., New York City on the Upper East Side, there will be a new way to experience St. Patty’s Day, sans alcohol. Many in the NYC area in recovery, who may have abandoned the holiday as it can be a trigger, will have a place to gather together to enjoy the best of Irish culture in a safe environment.

The idea of “Sober St. Patrick’s Day” spun from the mind of TV executive and events producer William Spencer Reilly.

Reilly, a native of New York City, has a special connection to addiction as he almost lost a member of his family to addiction seven years ago. In 2011, he brought his idea for “Sober St. Patrick’s Day” to the Caron Treatment Center in New York and National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Since that time, Reilly’s been developing the idea and brought others on board to grow the event, such as members in the Irish and Irish-American community, including Noel Kilkenny, consul general of Ireland, and Peter Ryan, deputy consul general.

“When I was growing up in Ireland,” Kilkenny says, “I remember distinctly that all the pubs were closed on St. Patrick's Day. We really respected it as a special day. l really like the idea of having a special event on this holiday for Americans of Irish heritage who are in recovery from alcoholism, to celebrate our shared heritage in a safe and inclusive environment.”

During the event, there will be Irish step dancers twirling around the floor to live traditional music, while pipe bands and musical guests, like KT Sullivan and John Whelan, sing to the crowd lulling lively Irish tunes.

“Reclaiming the true spirit of the day is what this is all about,” says Reilly.

For more information about “Sober St. Patrick’s Day,” or to purchase tickets, which are $12 per person, click here.

Sponsors of New York City’s “Sober St. Patrick’s Day” include the following:

Is your city or town having a sober celebration on St. Patrick’s Day? Let us know in the comments section.

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