Every year seniors from across the community flock to the Kenai Senior Citizens Center for the annual St. Patrick's Day corned beef and cabbage dinner, said Kathy Romain, assistant director of the center.
Along with music, dancing and modeling of green clothes bought at area thrift stores, an abundance of corned beef and cabbage is served. In fact, the center will use 50 pounds of corned beef that day amounting to about a $150 purchase from the grocery store.
"It is one of our favorite events of the year," Romain said. "It's a big deal."
Anticipating loads of fun around the community related to St. Patrick's Day, grocers stocked up and sold enormous quantities of corned beef, cabbage and other holiday products over the last week to prepare for the Irish holiday.
"We always do corned beef and cabbage. That's always a big deal at the store," said Chris Duncan, Country Foods IGA store manager. "We just sell pounds of the stuff."
He said every year he is amazed at the volume that is sold.
In fact, every year the week before the holiday corned beef sales increase by about 80 or 90 percent, Duncan said. Cabbage sales increase by about 50 percent, he said.
Senior centers and other parties are not the only place people enjoy the holiday.
Duncan said the day is a way for people to have some fun at work. Often, he said employees will dress up.
"That passes on to our customers," he said. "It's a fun time."
Other grocery stores also have stocked up.
Despite Mike Galic's Irish sounding last name, he is not Irish, and he has no plans for St. Patrick's Day. However, for the past 16 years, as the manager of the Soldotna Safeway store, he said he has seen Irish fans flood the store days before the holiday looking for a yearly fix of corned beef, cabbage, shamrock plants and other favorites.
Galic plans to adjust his diet for the day.
"I'm going to enjoy some corned beef and cabbage," he said.
Over the years, Galic said he has seen more people getting into the holiday. This is indicated by the growing sea of green clothes on customers coming into the store, he said.
The St. Patrick's Day Parade in Soldotna has helped increase business, too, he said.
"It helps promote that holiday," he said.
In addition to large sales of the standard St. Patrick's Day food items, Fred Meyer in Soldotna has seen increased sales of Irish apparel this year, said Beverly Egan, food department manager.
To get in the spirit of the holiday, Fred Meyer will participate in the parade this year with a float featuring its mascot, Fred Bear.
For those looking to get into the Irish spirit Thursday, Soldotna will host a series of holiday events. The annual parade begins at 4:30 p.m. and travels from Bailey's Furniture on the Kenai Spur Highway to the "Y."
After the parade there will be a family style Irish dinner of stew in sourdough bowls at 6 p.m. at the Soldotna Sports Center. Following the dinner there will be an auction.
The day wraps up with a holiday favorite of fireworks at 9 p.m. The best viewing is at the sports center.
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