West End WEEKLY
Lying in a casket in the middle of a bar while people talk about you – an unusual way to pass a Saturday evening. But, truth be told, it’s a scene not uncommon at Crehan’s Irish Pub, which holds an Irish Wake each year where they do exactly that. This year’s will take place on Saturday March 15 at 6 p.m. for St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
This Irish wake is a tradition that’s gone on at Crehan’s for 15 years with the Riverside Bugle Band, a side group comprised of members of the Ainad Shriners’ Drum and Bugle Corps. They play traditional Irish music during the wake which, despite all appearances, is a light-hearted experience that’s difficult to find a suitable comparison for.
As is done at all wakes, people at an Irish wake shared stories about someone’s life. In this instance that person is not passed but instead someone from the crowd,
sometimes a regular, an employee or someone else, but once they’re chosen that person is laid in a casket and carried into the bar by pallbearers. Once placed in the middle of the crowd, the resident minister comes and speaks about the person, the band plays, and everyone celebrates the life of the person in the casket. That’s where the similarities to an actual wake end.
“It’s usually a one-of-a-kind performance,” Barry Gregory, owner of Crehan’s, said. “We bring them in dead and raise them to life. It’s very appropriate to say it’s an inappropriate performance.”
The remembrances dug up during the wake are less the flowery kind than they are the colorful, funny stories you probably wouldn’t tell a stranger that everyone collects over time. That’s what makes the Irish wake unique each time it’s performed – everyone’s story is different, so attendees never have to worry about a repeat performance. It’s this variation that keeps each year’s event interesting and fresh, each experience unlike the others past in many details.
St. Patrick’s Day weekend is a big one for Crehan’s; their celebrations extend beyond the Irish wake on Saturday in both directions, starting on Friday night with a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner and the duo Rogers & Nienhaus, two former members of The Byrds, performing. Saturday morning Crehan’s opens at 8 a.m. for a traditional Irish breakfast, complete with green eggs, ham, potatoes, sausages, biscuits and gravy, Irish coffee and bloody Marys, all of which costs only $5 for all you can eat.
After breakfast the crew will leave Crehan’s to go take part in Belleville’s St. Patty’s Day parade. After the parade the group will mosey back to the pub to eat some corned beef and cabbage, potatoes and Reubens before the Irish wake begins. Crehan’s is known for their awesome traditional Irish food so much so that last year
Gregory got an unusual call asking for directions.
“It was a truck driver from Chicago who called and asked for directions here. He said ‘I heard you guys have the best corned beef in St. Louis,’” Gregory said.
If you missed your shot on Friday or Saturday you can try their corned beef for yourself on Sunday, as Crehan’s will open at 11 a.m. to serve more corned beef and cabbage. By 4 p.m. Charlie England will perform, gearing crowds up for St. Patrick’s Day the next day. Come next morning Crehan’s will open with the last Irish breakfast of the weekend at 8 a.m. for St. Patrick’s Day. By twilight, at 6 p.m., a band of bag pipers, sponsored by Grey Eagle Distributing, will come and perform the closing show for a weekend already quite full of jubilation and green dye.
Crehan’s Irish Pub is located at 5500 North Belt West, and you can find out more about them at www.crehansirishpub.com or by calling 234-6500.
Additional information from Crehan’s Irish Pub.