Four months to the day after the most renowned Irish holiday comes another celebratory event, but this one's for Durango only: the Irish Embassy turns 1 today, and everyone is invited to the party.
The weekend will be full of festivities with food and music and drinking tonight through Sunday. Two bands from Ireland by way of Chicago will play tonight and Saturday night: Anish and the Muck Brothers will play their style of high-tempo, high-energy Irish folk and rock that created a dancing frenzy at the Irish pub last fall when they played the "Halfway to St. Patrick's Day" party to a standing-room-only crowd.
Each band will play a set of music on both nights, with the first set beginning at 7 p.m. and the second at 10 p.m. and going to last call. There is an open invitation to all local musicians to join both bands for an open jam session starting at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
The celebration also will include a tribute to Mick Ward, the man who made the pub happen. The idea for an Irish pub in Durango surfaced while Ward was traveling Europe in the late '70s and attended the Lisdoonvarna Music Festival in Ireland. There he befriended Irishman Jim Shannon, the head of the festival, and the two became fast friends. When the building at the corner of Main Avenue and Ninth Street became vacant, Ward contacted Shannon about turning it into an Irish Pub, and from there the dream became a reality.
Sadly, Ward died last August shortly after the pub opened. A toast and a song will be dedicated to Ward each night.
"It's not appropriate to have a moment of silence for Mick at our birthday party," said John Fingleton, owner of the bar. "It's too premature, but we will acknowledge him."
The overwhelming community support bestowed on the Irish Embassy in the days that came after Mick's death was the highlight of the pub's first year. Letters of encouragement, acknowledgement, Irish flags and flowers were left at the pub's doorsteps.
"Typically, this type of support is waiting to be acknowledged, but everything was left anonymous," Fingleton said over the phone last week.
Fingleton said that selfless and egoless attitude and the ability of Durangoans to stay under the radar is what makes Durango unique and has encouraged him to remain in town. He said the outpouring of support after Ward's death spurred him to give back to the community, and that commitment is at the heart of The Irish Embassy Pub.
Local beneficiaries of that commitment include the Durango Independent Film Festival, Fort Lewis College and Mercy Regional Medical Center, and Mercy's breast cancer center and the Durango Devo bicycle team are next on the list.
In its first year of existence, one theme has endured at the Irish Embassy - authenticity. The furniture, wall hangings, wood trim, dishes, silverware and glasses were shipped in from Ireland to complete the transformation from Scoot 'n' Blues, the building's former tenant. Even one-fourth of the pub's employees are Irish citizens.
Redesigned by Angela Murphy, an award-winning Irish pub designer, the entire renovation cost $1 million and took 10 months to complete.
With a trail of Irish pubs in his wake, Fingleton is experienced at hospitality. He's opened a string of pubs in the Caribbean, England, Ireland, Paris and, most recently, in Chicago before developing the Irish Embassy here.
If things go well at the first birthday party, Fingleton has great dreams and ambitions to build on in the coming years.
To commemorate the pub's second birthday, he would like to close down Ninth Street and have a street party outside with food and music.
The next step is even more ambitious, as Fingleton has future plans to host an Irish festival at Lightner Creek.
With an experienced Irish host at the helm, rest assured this birthday party will be, Fingleton said, "a whole lotta fun."
Karin L. Becker teaches composition at Fort Lewis College. Reach her at becker_K@fortlewis.edu.