It’s a foggy and dreary day in Avila Beach when I pull my car around to the golf course on Sunday, June 9, for the first-ever Blarney at the Beach—a food, music, and booze festival of Irish proportions.
The dichotomy illustrated by what my girlfriend Aileen and I came to Avila Beach to do, and what the sweet, young, athletic family on bikes—whom I nearly mow down trying to park—came to do couldn’t be more clear.
“You’re a terrible driver,” Aileen reminds me for the hundredth time that hour.
I blush, nearly apologetically, and motion frantically for the shocked family to continue on their path to snow cones and the other PG-rated fun they were no doubt about to have.
“Sorry,” I say to Aileen. “I’m just excited to party with my fellow Irish people.”
We park the car at the edge of the Avila Beach Golf Course and I open the door to the passionate sounds of bagpipes and the smell of food too flavorful to possibly be Irish. I should know: I came out of the Irish womb salted and stewed.
We get wrist-banded by a tall security guard in a yellow windbreaker who, in an almost ominous tone tells us to, “Have … fun … .”
“What did he mean by that?” I think to myself as I dodge one of the many middle-aged women frantically gyrating her hips, offbeat, to the sounds of the bagpipes on stage.
I’m about to ask Aileen if she feels like we’re at some wine-fueled ’80s cover band concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl, but when I turn to say something to her I see that she’s already following the scent trail to the Rooney’s food booth at the edge of the main stage.
It’s then that the redheaded, Celtic-blooded, soda bread-loving Aileen orders jalapeño nachos for a starter.
“What are you doing?” I yell to her over the deep thump of a didgeridoo on stage. “That’s not Irish!”
“And neither is what you’re wearing,” she retorts as I look down in shame upon my Endless Summer tank top and jean jacket.
“I have to look like an objective reporter,” I argue loudly while munching on some of the nachos.
We decide to sit and enjoy the last few songs of the band Brother, a Celtic/rock/tribal/Australian fusion band that gets lots of the Reagan-era ladies in fedoras, babies, Cal Poly graduates, and dudes in kilts up and dancing around.
This is when I notice that everyone dancing has something in common: They’re all drinking, except for the babies, who, let’s face it, are like tiny drunks we as a society tolerate because they’re cute and small—and like drunk people, will occasionally say something funny or off the wall.
“I need a drink,” I yell to Aileen as I scramble toward the row of booze trailers.
I order a Dublin Donkey—a whiskey, sours, and ginger concoction. Thankfully, for $10 a ride, this donkey has a pretty good kick.
Aileen orders a vodka lemonade (also not Irish) and we proceed to mosey around for a few hours listening to the sounds of The Fenians while I debate buying some Celtic jewelry or getting a leprechaun painted on my cheek at the face painting booth. In the end, Aileen and I settle on having our pictures taken in the Bluesteel Airstream photo booth, an adorable vintage trailer outfitted with props and that prints your photos instantly.
As we’re standing in line, the couple in front of us clashes over which prop hat will go best on the gentleman.
“Wear the pink cowboy hat,” the woman commands. The gentleman obliges, adjusts the chinstrap, and steps inside the booth. When they emerge, the couple laughs hysterically and the woman running the booth asks how things went.
“We’re drunk and silly,” she says, unwittingly summing up the entire Blarney at the Beach experience for Aileen and me.
Soon, Aileen confesses that the Benadryl she took earlier in the day to stave off the effects of a grass allergy has left her a little lethargic and loopy. Suddenly all of the less-than-Irish food and beverage choices begin to make sense: She’s totally out of it.
We start heading back to the car and I notice that folks from all walks of Irish and not-so-Irish life seem to be having a great time. It’s then that I remember my people do have one thing in common, and it’s the need to be near other people who love to eat and laugh and dance terribly like we do. I leave satisfied that Blarney at the Beach has managed to uphold the tenets of Irishness most near and dear to my heart. And it was also a good thing that our friend Tullamore Dew was there.
Calendar Editor Maeva Considine likes both art and the occasional bash. Send your love and whiskey to firstname.lastname@example.org