HUBBARDSTON — Though the village of Hubbardston boasts hundreds of years of Irish history, it was the youngest of descendants, with toes tapping and legs moving swiftly that signaled the beginning of St. Patrick’s Day in the small town.
Beginning with a song dedicated to the very residents of the village, the Hubbardston Irish Dance Troupe put on an Irish stepdancing show that had the capacity crowd at Shiels Tavern on their feet and clapping along Monday morning.
As the members of the dance troupe performed their routine, director Emma Jandernoa watched as her young dancers brought Michigan’s oldest continuously operating tavern to life.
“We absolutely love coming back to Hubbardston,” she said. “This is hometown pride and joy. I like to think that the troupe brings a lot of pride to Hubbardston, because this is where it originated. It’s grown so much that we have a such a big fan base and so many supporters, we like to give back any way we can.”
As the group continued to perform, more residents and visitors continued to pour into the tavern, dressed fully in green attire and grabbing green-colored spirits from the bar. The annual St. Patrick’s Day festival had truly begun.
Troupe member and Carson City-Crystal High School senior Hope Miller, 18, was proud to once again take to the dance floor in the historic tavern on the most celebrated day within the village.
“We do take a lot of pride in St. Patrick’s Day,” she said. “It’s just amazing to be part of something this big. We’re up to 40 members now. Our dancers who have left have gone on to do amazing thing, becoming architects, graphic designers and teachers. It gives the girls a great opportunity to get out there and get past any stage freight.”
As the dancers finished their performance, the celebration shifted outside, as everyone headed to the village park to partake in what residents dub the “world’s shortest parade” at no more than 500 feet down N. Washington Street.
Carrying banners with slogans that read phrases such as “May There Always Be Hubbardston,” nearly 100 paradegoers joined in on the fun, as bagpiper Tim Zielke of Caledonia led the march.
“This is off the beaten path a bit, but I’m here for the enjoyment, that’s why I’m here,” Zielke said. “This celebration is wonderful. It’s unique, and I would never do it for money. I do it for the love of it. Going around the world playing bagpipes, for events like this, it really brings me pleasure.”
Zielke was making a return trip to Hubbardston’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which he said reminds him of his time spend in Ireland.
He made sure to play classic Irish songs such as “Kelly of Killane” and “The Minstrel Boy” as he lead the parade down the street, blowing away on his bagpipes.
As the parade made its brief journey to the end of the street, everyone began filtering back inside Shiels Tavern as Zielke continued to serenaded the crowd from outside, and then within the tavern.
Maynard Failing of Carson City began dancing with fellow Carson City residents MaryJane Harold and Sue Lowe, circling around and around in the street outside the tavern.
With Failing’s roots dating to County Cork, Ireland, returning to Hubbardston is always a treat.
“It’s a good little town, filled with a lot of good people who look out for each other,” Failing said. “This was my first time in the Irish parade here, and it was a lot of fun.”
As the tavern began to fill past capacity, with green beer flowing and laughter and cheers filling the air, it was evident that the village had put on yet another successful celebration in the name of St. Patrick.
“We’re going to continue to have fun,” said Tracey Doty of Greenville, originally of Hubbardston. “St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal here, and we’re trying to make it an even bigger deal.”
As the day carried on, the Irish spirit never appeared to dwindle.
“We were born and raised here,” Hubbardston native Holly Thelen said. “We always come back to Hubbardston for St. Patty’s Day.”