The event keeps getting bigger, and can grow even more at its new location.
The people behind Shamrock the Block thought about abandoning the annual festival last year.
“No event organizer wants to take those calls asking about controversy, or wants to get beat up by the press for weeks on end,” said Mike Murphy of Three One One Productions, organizers of the event, in an email to RVANews. That controversy came from complaints of overcrowding at its 17th Street Farmers Market venue and tussles between Richmond Police and drunken attendees.
“There were days when we thought, ‘This is stupid…why do we keep doing this to ourselves?'” Murphy said about the fallout. “And just when you reach the conclusion it’s over, someone on Facebook sends a message that they had the best time ever, or they found a new band that day they loved…That’s why you keep trudging and deal with the politics, the challenges, and some people that just don’t get it.”
It seems that most people do get Shamrock the Block. It was started by Y101 in 2003, abandoned in 2004, and then reanimated in 2005 when Three One One took over the event.
“It was about gathering, promoting the businesses in Shockoe Bottom and being a ‘less authentic’ version of the traditional Irish festivals around the country,” Murphy said, describing Shamrock the Block’s intentions. “It also was a great vehicle for local bands to get exposure.”
- Jackson Ward Band
- Redneck Pool Party
- The Southern Belles
- Black Girls
It also is a great way to drink in the streets, an allure Murphy said is a key appeal. “I’ve said this before, there’s something about drinking a beer in the street that makes people happy,” Murphy said. It makes a lot of people happy, like over 20,000 annual attendees kind of happy. He said Shamrock the Block is the best Richmond event to people watch “hands down.”
People watching should be easier this year when the festival debuts on N. Boulevard. “The Boulevard offers Shamrock the Block much wider streets, a larger footprint, better parking, more accessibility to foot traffic from the Fan neighborhoods and emergency vehicle access,” Murphy said.
Over 80 vendors and an estimated 35,000 attendees will pack into a five-block span between W. Moore (near Movieland) to Broad streets. Parking is available on side streets in Scott’s Addition, Carytown, and the Museum District. The Diamond will also have parking in the afternoon, as will local businesses.
“Everyone has been really positive, supportive, and embracing of the event, its future and how the area will be impacted,” Murphy said about the Scott’s Addition Business Association and other local businesses. “We as an event are very excited and look forward to many years at our new home.”
In addition to offering parking at The Diamond, the Flying Squirrels will offer a kid section called McNuttysville with bounces, pitching games, corn hole, face painting, and more. Adult competitors can look forward to the return of the popular mechanical bull. Proceeds from the event will go toward local charities FETCH A Cure and Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN). Murphy said that Shamrock the Block has raised over $250,000 for charitable organizations throughout its life.
While its location has changed, organizers of Shamrock the Block still want the spirit of the event to endure. “Our intent is and has always been to be the first outdoor festival of the season where people can grab a beer, a bite, and get out of the house for a Saturday afternoon,” Murphy said.
“If I could sum it up in one sentence, we just want to [be known as] ‘The event where everyone can have a great time, be seen, make friends, and walk away with a bunch of cool selfies.'”
Take those selfies at Shamrock the Block, at its new location, on Saturday, March 15th from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
photo by Erin Soorenko