2018-03-22 / Columns

Irish pride rich in Omena on St. Patrick’s Day

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OMENA FOLKS came together to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Knot Just a Bar over the weekend. Pictured in the foreground from left are Stewart Smith, Debby Disch, Les Disch and Rink Smith. Also pictured are Bruce Balas, Ed Hinkelman, Kim Armbruster, Scott Walker and Georgienne Hammer. OMENA FOLKS came together to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Knot Just a Bar over the weekend. Pictured in the foreground from left are Stewart Smith, Debby Disch, Les Disch and Rink Smith. Also pictured are Bruce Balas, Ed Hinkelman, Kim Armbruster, Scott Walker and Georgienne Hammer. There was lots of wearin’ o’ the green last Saturday in Omena for St. Patrick’s Day.

A fun crowd gathered at Knot Just a Bar to enjoy some live Irish airs and traditional Irish fare. Scott Walker surprised us all, showing up with green hair and beard. Ruth also had a green streak in her hair, but hid it under a sparkling green beret. (Boy! I’m about ready for the New York Times Style Magazine). I lost the “How Long will Scott’s Hair be Green” contest when I learned that it successfully washed out that night. Would have made a much better story for the column if it hadn’t, but I’m sure Scott felt better going to his Monday meeting.

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It was a beautiful, sunny weekend, but with still below average, wintry temperatures. And, while we all love winter here in Omena, there comes a time when most of us have just about had it with ice and snow.

Mary Smart found the perfect cure for the late winter blahs on a trip east to New York City and the Philadelphia Flower Show last week. The HUGE flower show, which is held in the first two weeks of March every year, was entitled the “Wonders of Water” and featured spectacular displays of how water is being used internationally. After seeing the wondrous rainforest at the entrance, complete with parrots, palms and proteas, and thousands of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, reality struck with a 20-foot-high display of copper pipes and chartreuse cymbidium orchids which told the story of the Flint water crisis, which is well known around the globe. Next year’s show will be “Flower Power.” Mary says there is info online at theflowershow.com for anyone who wants a little jolt of early spring.

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Back in New York, Mary and her traveling companion, Mary Ford of Birmingham and Beaver Island, had a chance to see John Lithgow in his oneman show at the Roundabout Theater and also had an absolutely fabulous time shopping and lunching at Eataly, a huge purveyor of all things Italian with the most beautiful displays of vegetables, cheeses, smoked hams and housewares. Lunch was a delicious rum Manhattan, wild mushroom pasta and cappuccino…truly La Dolce Vita right in NYC!

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Bruce and Judy Balas are back from a trip to California. They had a wonderful visit with Bill Knorp, who was an Omena seasonal resident for 20 years, at his home in Auburn, Calif. Bill entertained them as well as some local friends and is doing very well after the loss of his wife, Judy. He plans to return to Omena in June to see friends and family in the area.

During the Balas’ California visit, they explored Sutters Mill where gold was first discovered. The area was originally the site of major logging. It was during this process that one of the foremen spotted gold nuggets in the water starting the California Gold Rush. The rest, as Judy reports, is history.

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Stewart Smith arrived from Butte, Mont. late Saturday afternoon, just in time for his brother, Rink Smith, to get him to the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. It was good Omena had something to celebrate the day, because, while the Smith’s have a wee bit of Irish in them, Stewart had left the most Irish city in the U.S. on St. Patrick’s Day. During the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau asked respondents to identify one or two ethnic groups with which they identify. Butte resulted in the highest of any metropolitan or micropolitan city with 23.6 percent saying they had Irish roots.

Butte topped out as the most Irish American of the 942 metropolitan and micropolitan cities in the country. Right behind Butte were Ocean City, N.J., Corinth, Miss., and Barnstable Town (better known as Cape Cod), Mass., all of which had just over 20 percent identifying as being Irish- American. Not surprisingly, Boston took the top spot as the most Irish- American major market (top-50 largest metro markets) in the U.S, with 19.8 percent identifying as having Irish roots. While many Americans indicated that they were of Irish ethnicity — 33.4 million in all 942 markets — the only group that beat the Irish were the German-Americans, with 45.7 percent claiming German heritage.

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Irish immigrants searching for work were attracted by the West’s jobs in the mining sector in the latter half of the 19th century. Initially, gold and silver mining attracted immigrants of many ethnicities to Butte, but the Irish, Cornish and Welsh were the largest segment. As a result, it is as easy to find pasties — the meat pies — in Butte, as it is in the UP. Soon, copper was also discovered in Butte, making it a mining boom town. In the late 19th century, copper was in great demand because of new technologies such as electric power that required the use of copper. Around the turn of the 20th century, prosperous mining had generated considerable wealth in Butte, and at the time was the largest city between Chicago and San Francisco. It was the first city in Montana to have electricity; the power, generated hydroelectrically, was needed by the mines.

While Stewart is in town, he and Rink and Debby are tackling a storage room in the barn that has items going back decades. They are reliving some fun memories, finding some fascinating pieces of history — that may be mentioned in a column some day — and quickly filling up a dumpster with many items that don’t belong to either of those categories.

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Happy Birthday to Sarah Chenault, Amy Smart Oosterhouse, Julie DeWitt, and Pat Bourdo. Happy 15th wedding anniversary to Mike and Laurie Adelson.

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