30th Annual Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade This Sunday

Scene from last year's 29th Annual Kelly's St. Patrick Day Parade.
Scene from last year’s 29th Annual Kelly’s St. Patrick Day Parade.

A Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade that actually falls on St. Patrick’s Day? Unheard of…unprecedented…and yet it is happening.

The 30th Annual Mike Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be this Sunday, March 17.

The Parade is always held on the Sunday closest to March 17 so evidently 30th time is the charm.

Marching along the Beach Road in Nags Head, this is one parade that absolutely has to be experienced. It’s a bit whacky, with a trumpet playing unicycle rider, dogs dressed in green and the South Nags Head White Trash Marching Band that features drummers playing trash cans and kazoos for instruments.

There are also some very good marching bands mixed in, a lot of antique cars and generally it’s a reminder of just how special and wonderful the Outer Banks can be.

The route is usually a mile long, ending at Gallery Row in Nags Head. However, because of storm drainage work in the Gallery Row area the parade will have to be shorter this year. It will only be a half a mile.

Experienced parade goers know—it’s mid March, the route is right by the Atlantic Ocean and temperatures can go from 60 with the sun out to 45 if clouds roll in from the sea. Dress accordingly. In 30 years, Mike Kelly has never postponed or cancelled the event. Daytime temperatures are forecast to be around 45 at parade time, 1:00 p.m., on Sunday with a brisk north wind. Plenty of sunshine, though.

That’s still plenty of time to enjoy one of the most fun and fantastic parade events anywhere.

There is always a special reason to visit the Outer Banks. Check out our Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates listings for the finest homes in the best locations.

Kelly’s St. Patty’s Day Parade Highlights Best of Outer Banks

Parade Honors Spirit of Joy

The South Nags Head Beach Chair Drill Team proving they can perform somewhat precise movements.
The South Nags Head Beach Chair Drill Team proving they can perform somewhat precise movements.

As dawn broke the outlook for the 29th Annual Mike Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade seemed ominous—a driving rain with 20 mph winds would have made it difficult to hold the annual celebrations of all things Irish.

But then the clouds parted and the sun came out. It was windy along the parade route in Nags Head, and the marchers were walking directly into the north wind, but that didn’t change the fact it was a glorious day to be on the Outer Banks.

This year was a little bit special.

The Parade Marshall the Grand Poobah Ernie Bridgers. Ernie was the genius behind the South Nags Head White Trash Marching Band and Beach Chair Drill Team.

If ever there was a group that defined the marvelous insanity of the Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, it was the Beach Chair Drill Team.

Marching to the rat-a-tat-tat of the drum cadence on trash cans, producing an occasional tune with kazoos and actually performing something that resembled a precision drill with beach chairs, Ernie’s creation brought a smile every time.

Unfortunately Ernie passed way last year. But the Drill team was back as good as ever and in a fitting tribute to Ernie, every member of the team carried an image of him as they marched down the street.

Of course the Drill Team is just one part of what is a remarkable and wonderful tribute to the spirit of the Outer Banks.

There is the unicycle riding trumpet player who jumps rope—although this year the wind seemed to be giving his rope jumping fits. There are the dogs dressed up in the finest green. And antique cars…fire trucks, and floats of every description.

Billed as the largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in eastern North Carolina, it maybe it is….probably is…but no matter what there cannot be another one the is so much fun.

Late November Closing for Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern

Fundraiser from GEM Adult services at Kelly's Outer Banks Tavern in 2016. Fundraising was a frequent activity at the bar.
Fundraiser from GEM Adult services at Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern in 2016. Fundraising was a frequent activity at the bar.

End of an Era Comes Sooner Than Expected

Last week Mike Kelly confirmed rumors that had been swirling about for some time—at  the end of November he will be closing Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern.

If there is a surprise in this, it is that the closing is coming much sooner than expected. Most observers felt Mike would keep his flagship operation open through the New Year to take full advantage of the revenues the end of year celebrations generate.

For at least a year, Mike has been in negotiations with Lidl, a German discount grocery chain. With almost five acres available, the lot is one of the few left that is considered suitable for a large standalone store.

For long-time visitors to the Outer Banks and residents, there is a sense of an end of an era. Kelly’s has always been for years the go to place to meet friends or catch some live music. Perhaps most significantly, Mike has always been generous with the use of his facility, working with a number of local nonprofit when they needed a place for a fundraiser.

Opened in 1985 after purchasing the original building, Kelly’s soon became the centerpiece of Outer Banks nightlife. With a large bar area, national acts could be booked on the Outer Banks.

As Kelly’s popularity grew, so did the need for more space and about 15 years ago, Mike doubled the capacity of his tavern.

It’s a mistake, though, to think Kelly’s is just a bar with entertainment. From the outset, the restaurant set a high bar for well-prepared food, an excellent wine list and outstanding service.

The success of the restaurant allowed Mike to expand, and the Kelly Hospitality Group now includes Pamlico Jack’s in Nags Head, Mako Mikes in Kill Devil Hills and Kelly’s Catering Services. There are no plans to close or discontinue any other of the operations.

Zack Mexico Rocks Kelly’s Tavern

Zack Mexico performing at Kelly's Outer Banks Tavern Saturday night.
Zack Mexico performing at Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern Saturday night.

Zack Mexico took a journey back to their roots on Saturday night, rocking the house at Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern.

A local band that’s making a name for itself regionally, the founding members of the group all hail from Kill Devil Hills.

It was a great show and if nothing else, it certainly clarified the rumors of Kelly’s imminent closing are greatly exaggerated. Owner Mike Kelly has told local media that he is planning on selling the five acre lot that is home to the restaurant, but negotiations hit a snag and Mike has made it clear until there is a signature on a dotted line, the restaurant and bar is running full throttle.

A five piece band, Zack Mexico’s music has sort of a psychedelic punk rock sound. Except they throw in some other elements into their music.

They take the stage with three guitars and they use the guitars in their own unique style. They’re loud; they’re lyrics are sometimes off-color; and they are really good musicians.

In their arrangements, the band uses the guitars as another voice to backup lead singer, John Saturley. They’ll harmonize their guitar leads. Sometimes the guitar will play a counterpoint to the vocals.

Their distinctive sound and the quality of what they are doing is really helped by the drumming of Joey LaFountain.

Shaggy hair hanging in his face, he looks the part. More importantly, though, LaFountain is a really good drummer and it’s his pounding, innovative rhythms that drives the energy of the performance.

In short—this is a group of really good musicians who have found a voice in the music they are performing.

It’s not for everyone. This is pretty hardcore psychedelic punk rock—if that is a genre. It’s loud. The beat and the rhythms, especially in their live shows, is an incessant almost frenetic pounding.

But they are good, and if their style is acceptable, it’s a great show.

19th Annual Mollie Fearing Art Show Looks Great

Mary Ann Remer's tribute to astronaut Scott Kelly, Best in Show.
Mary Ann Remer’s tribute to astronaut Scott Kelly, Best in Show.

There are some great traditions on the Outer Banks for artists and it’s always great to see who turns out for the art shows.

Sponsored by the Dare County Arts Council (DCAC) the Molly Fearing Art Show is one of the best around. Open to DCAC members and Dare County Residents, it is a wonderful mix of art styles and media.

There whimsical paintings and sculpture; startling photography—a personal favorite was Daniel Pullen’s  “Blood Moon”—symbolic art, still life, modern art all blending into a wonderful kaleidoscope of creativity.

Mary Ann Remer’s tribute to astronaut Scott Kelly was the judge’s choice as Best in Show, and they were still tallying the votes for People’s Choice when we left a little before 4:00.

This was the best attended in years, with estimates putting the number between 125-150 coming to the old Dare County Courthouse, now the DCAC Gallery, for the opening reception.

According to Program Director Fay Edwards, there were 84 entries this year, topping last years 75.

A shout out should go to Mike Kelly and Kelly’s Caters. The food was excellent and the staff did a great job of keeping the buffet table full and the wine flowing.

Mollie Fearing was a founding member and first president of the DCAC in 1975. In addition to her contribution to the arts, Mollie was the mayor of Manteo and sat on a number of boards addressing the needs of Manteo.



Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade-An OBX Tradition

The giant crab from Jennette's Pier.
The giant crab from Jennette’s Pier.

The 27th Annual Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade did not disappoint. Of course, Mike Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration never seems to disappoint.

In so many ways it’s the epitome of Outer Banks entertainment . . . a little bit whack, a lot of fun, but very much designed as something the whole family can enjoy.

There is always the question, of course, just what is the best part of the parade and that is such a subjective question that there is no way to answer it.

For sheer shock value there is the giant crab sitting atop the Jennette’s Pier

vehicle. Giant can mean different things to different people, but when a crab is so large it blots out the sun, that is huge.

The giant crab was not the only memorable moment from the parade. The kids from Dare County Parks and Rec really seemed to be enjoying themselves. It’s hard to tell how the dogs felt about the whole dressing up idea, but there’s something about a dog wearing the latest in St. Patrick’s Day fashion that brings a smile.

If there is a theme to the parade it seems to be, “Be yourself,” so an occasional politician rides by waving to the crowd, but there are also statements on issues that concern Outer Banks residents. Not the Answer NC, a local group that opposes offshore drilling, had a strong showing with lots of kids as well as adults holding signs as they walked the parade route.

The Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has become the kickoff for the Outer Banks Taste of the Beach, which begins on Thursday. Don’t forget the Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates Barbecue and Wings Showdown is this Friday at the Nags Head Event Site.