By Amanda C. Davis
You know St. Patrick’s Day must be around the corner when you spot a giant human pickle and a leprechaun on the sidewalk downtown.
J.J. the Giant Leprechaun and Jim the Pickle were outside the Lemon Grove Caf and Lounge on West Federal Street on Friday to greet participants of the city’s third annual St. Paddy’s Day Dash.
Jonathan Silverman, the leprechaun, said his boss, Jack Kravitz, owner of Kravitz Deli, persuaded him to dress up as the character to “spread the St. Patrick’s Day cheer.”
Silverman and James Smith, the pickle, are employees of the deli’s Poland location. The deli had a goal to sell 500 extra-large corned-beef and Reuben sandwiches over the course of the night from the back of the Lemon Grove. It’s one of many events planned for the upcoming week by the locally famous deli.
The dash took celebrants to 15 restaurants and bars, mostly in the city’s downtown. Two 55-seat buses provided by CCS Trans took riders between stops that included the B&O Station, Lemon Grove, Buffalo Wild Wings, Cedars, Imbibe Martini Lounge, Downtown 36, Cassese’s MVR and the Old Precinct.
For $2, participants received a wristband that allowed them to ride to each location on the route.
John Cannon, retired Austintown police officer, said proceeds from the event go to the Blue Knights Police Association, of which he is treasurer. The group, made up of active and retired law-enforcement officers, raises money for various charities, many of them local.
Alexandra DeCenzo of Boardman boarded the bus with friends Meghan Hanni and Larissa Heywood, both of Canfield. The girls set a goal to visit each of the destinations along the route.
“We’re going to get drunk and sing a lot,” Hanni said early in the night. “I’m very excited about this.”
The girls, who have attended the event each year, said it’s nice to go from bar to bar and to feel safe downtown. Hanni joked that most participants would probably be hung over by 8 p.m.
Event organizer Lyndsey Hughes, the city’s director of downtown events and special projects, said the St. Paddy’s event is the biggest of the three bar crawls organized downtown each year. The others include one near the Fourth of July and another around Halloween.
She said about 800 people attended the St. Paddy’s crawl last year and that she expected about the same this year.
Joe and Tammy Jacobs of Boardman said they were planning on an early night, calling themselves “too old” to hang with the late-night crowd.
“Last year, we came down and had a ball,” Joe Jacobs said. “This year we’ll probably drink a bunch of beer and go home.”
Celebrating a girls’ night out were Robin Adams, her daughter, Shawna Applegate, and Adams’ sister, Michele Devlin, all of New Springfield.
Devlin, who was celebrating her “40ish birthday” a day early, said they were meeting up with a group of people to drink and dance the night away. “We’re going to jump on the bus and [go] wherever the wind takes us.”
Molly and Jamie Burdette, husband and wife, were celebrating at the B&O Station with members of Molly’s extended Irish family, some of whom traveled from Columbus for the event.
Jamie Burdette joked that he considers himself Irish by marriage. “And he’s thrilled by it every day of his life,” his wife chimed in.
Buddies Drew Webster, a Youngstown State University student, and Phil Rauscher, a recent YSU graduate, joked that their goals for the night included avoiding arrest.
“Also, I want to meet people I don’t know and have them buy me drinks,” Webster joked. “That, my friends, is capitalism.”