Lakewood Ranch hosts second annual Irish Celtic Festival

Lakewood Ranch hosts second annual Celtic festival

ejohnson@bradenton.comMarch 17, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- It was a parade of green, specifically pooches in green, at Central Park in Lakewood Ranch at the second annual Irish Celtic Festival.

The Lucky Dog Parade featured dogs with green tutus, shirts, hats and other accessories.

"It's nice that it supports the Humane Society of Lakewood Ranch," said Paula Pugliesi of parade registration fees going to the organization. "My dogs are rescues."

Her duo of Corgis, named Bentley and Mali, were nominated for Most Irish. The wore green hats and had green shamrocks painted on their fur.

The dogs were dressed to match Pugliesi's daughter, Zoe, who also had green hair for the festival.

Dogs competed in categories of Cutest, Most Irish and Owner-dog Look-alike.

"I'm all Irish. He's half Irish," said Patty Ortiz of her son, Daniel. Their dog, Max, was also nominated for Most Irish pooch.

"Every year we do something for St. Patrick's Day," Ortiz said. "This seemed fun. We will definitely come back next year."

Approximately 3,000 people attended the festival where Celtic

musical and dance performances took the stage, while numerous organizations had booths set up around the park. Kids participated in a scavenger hunt, collecting a pot of chocolate coins and a certificate for a free art lesson at the end of their journey.

"We try to build in a lot of tradition at the festival, instead of just having people wearing green show up for a quick parade," said Lori Basilone, director of community activities for Lakewood Ranch.

Owners of Neal Communities, which built the development including Central Park, are of Irish descent. And Frank Neal, activities board member who moved from Boston, felt there was a void for Irish ancestral celebration.

"With this venue, it was time to develop festivals that are cultural-based," Basilone said. "And everybody's Irish on St. Paddy's Day."

Traditional Irish food, beer and coffee were served. An Italian festival is planned for November.

Basilone said Lakewood Ranch offers 15 annual activities at various locations.

"And we're constantly working on all of them year-round," she said. "It's just about giving the community events that everyone can enjoy."

Elizabeth Johnson, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041.

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