Officially the feast of Saint Patrick of Ireland but unofficially one of the biggest drinking days of the year, St. Patrick's Day promises to paint Harford County green as revelers come out to celebrate the entire weekend.
Bars around the Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace areas said they have been gearing up for their largest event of the year. The holiday is technically only one day, March 17, this Sunday, but most establishments that put on big St. Patty's Day blasts are stretching the celebration over Saturday and Sunday.
The saloon keepers also are hoping people will not be scared away by a forecast of rain and bad weather for the weekend.
"It's our biggest day of the year, being an Irish pub," Margie Coakley, owner of Coakley's Pub in Havre de Grace, said about St. Patrick's Day.
"Last year was the biggest one we ever had, being on a Saturday," Coakley said. "This Sunday will be just as fun."
The pub plans to stay festive and wear the green Friday through Sunday, with dinner specials Friday night like corned beef, shepherd's pie, Irish bangers and mash, homemade Guinness stew, green beer, Irish car bombs and Irish soda bread.
A bagpiper will also be performing at noon on Sunday.
For the fourth time, the bar will offer a "green eggs and kegs" Sunday morning breakfast, she said.
A DJ will keep the atmosphere lively, as will giveaways of T-shirts and other items.
"I think both days are going to be busy," Coakley said, adding the food is already being prepared.
"We started cooking right now," she said Wednesday.
In Aberdeen, the Greene Turtle asked the liquor board for permission to expand its patio area farther out to have DJs and a few bands inside.
Jonathan Gettle, representing the restaurant, said this is the fourth year the Greene Turtle has made such a move.
St. Patrick's Day celebrations there will include five bouncers and two off-duty police officers, he said.
The weekend will include two bands - Bottoms Up and MisEuphoria – beginning at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
As for the weather, "hopefully it will be nice," he said. "We will have a good time either way."
"It's always a busy weekend, one of the busiest of the whole year," he noted.
In Bel Air, meanwhile, bars like Looney's are gearing up for a huge event as well.
"This is our biggest day. We plan this all year," Adriane Kleinman of Looney's said Wednesday. "We are putting a lot of time and effort into it."
With the holiday falling on a weekend, Looney's is featuring two tents that will take up half of its always-crowded parking lot.
"We doubled our size," Kleinman explained.
The restaurant got approval Wednesday by the Harford County Liquor Control Board to host the outdoor event, as did Sean Bolan's and Greene Turtle in Aberdeen.
Because of limited parking, Looney's is encouraging attendees to park in the town garage, about 2 1/2 blocks away between Main Street and Hickory Avenue, or get dropped off.
The county parking lot across Route 1 will also be available.
Bill Larney of Looney's told the liquor board the side entrance to the restaurant's lot from Main Street will be blocked off.
Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola said the State Highway Administration approved the plan, as long as the restaurant puts up orange cones along the apron.
Matrangola also said the town is encouraging people not to park at Bel Air High School. The school has a dance that night, as does The John Carroll School.
Larney said it should be easier to accommodate parking on a weekend.
"The shopping center is empty," he noted, adding the pub is offering free shuttle service as usual.
"We are always trying to get it out there: we will drop you home, as long as it is within 15 miles," he told the board.
The bar will feature 16 security personnel to oversee the weekend.
Larney said a beer tub and a bar will be in each tent, and a Jersey wall as well as a chain link fence will be around the complex.
That led board chairman Donald Hess to joke: "It's going to be a fortress. Wow."
The celebration will feature 16 bands over the two days, as well as Irish dancers, bagpipe players, pit beef and pit turkey all day Saturday and Sunday in the tents.
'Beat the clock'
MaGerk's in Bel Air will have live acoustic with Chalk Dust, a band of Harford County teachers, from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.
The restaurant will open at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday for a "beat the clock" special of Jameson and Guinness, as well as a limited special of Irish egg rolls and corned beef and cabbage.
The Tara Band will perform from 3 to 7 p.m. on Saturday and two bands, Staggering Back and Wahley's Wacky Duo, will perform from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
"The biggest thing is, we have drink specials galore all day long," Jennifer Topper, of MaGerk's, said.
Both Looney's and MaGerk's will be selling commemorative St. Patrick's Day 2013 T-shirts with the names of each restaurant, respectively.
At MaGerk's, anyone who buys a T-shirt in advance does not have to pay a cover charge this weekend, Topper explained.
"It's the biggest party weekend of the year," Topper said, agreeing with the other pub employees.
All hands on deck
She also said the holiday might be bigger this year because it is on a weekend.
"We are all hands on deck," she said about MaGerk's staffing plans.
At The Dark Horse, a heated tent will open at 2 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday, general manager Gina Carapico said.
The restaurant will also open at 8 a.m. on Sunday with $3.17 breakfast drink specials, while the bands Great Train Robbery and Hyjinx will perform starting at 2 p.m.
Corned beef and cabbage will be served the whole weekend, and the chef will be smoking meat outside, Carapico said.
Green beer and green frozen drinks will also be on hand for those celebrating.
"We expect it to be one of the busiest days, especially with it being on the weekend," she noted. "All our staff is working open to close."