Traditional Irish music filled O'Donnell Street Square on Wednesday evening as a group of men hauled a blue racecar off a tow truck.
A crowd cheered when the men wheeled the car onto the grassy square, which was imprinted with the National Bohemian Beer logo. When racecar driver Patryk Tararuj participates in the Grand Prix of Baltimore this weekend, the vehicle will carry the name of restaurateur Patrick "Scunny" McCusker, who died Friday in a traffic accident in Ocean City.
Tararuj, a 33-year-old Canton resident, never met McCusker but said he has heard many stories of his philanthropy and love for the neighborhood. Earlier Wednesday, McCusker's funeral drew more than 2,000 people. Friends gathered again in Canton in the evening to dedicate the racecar and celebrate his life.
"I know he was a guy who contributed to this community a lot," said Tararuj, who is from Poland and has had a passion for racing since age 9. "I'm really, really honored that I can pay it back and proudly display his name."
McCusker, who owned the Tex-Mex eatery Nacho Mama's, loved National Bohemian beer and helped bring back the brand. "Mr. Boh" signs dedicated to McCusker hung in O'Donnell Square.
"Scunny," one sign read, "Enjoy Your Land of Pleasant Living."
The racecar, rented from PRL Motorsports in Pittsburgh, bears decals including the logo of the Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation — a charity McCusker supported — the names of local businesses, and an image of a weeping Mr. Boh wearing a sombrero.
Stephen Hamilton, a part owner of the Canton bar and restaurant the Americana, said Tararuj had previously reached out to him about sponsoring a car, but Hamilton and his partners put the idea "on the back burner."
After McCusker died, Hamilton and others wanted to come together to dedicate a car to him. Tararuj plans to compete in the USF2000 series race Saturday and Sunday.
More than 20 local businesses —in Canton, Fells Point and Federal Hill — donated to sponsor the car. They raised more than $12,000 in 20 hours, Hamilton said. Many restaurants and bars also donated a portion of their sales Wednesday to the Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation.
McCusker's name "carries so much weight in the community," Hamilton said. "People did not think twice. They jumped at it."
"We had people calling that we didn't even reach out to," said one of Hamilton's business partners, Alex Van Breukelen, who called McCusker his "go-to guy" for advice on running a restaurant.
Dawn Graf, a longtime employee of McCusker's restaurant Mama's on the Half Shell, said McCusker made everyone he knew feel like they were special to him.
Graf had tears in her eyes as she imagined what McCusker would think of the crowd gathered at O'Donnell Square.
"He's sitting up there laughing," she said.