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St. Patrick’s Day in Vegas starts off green

Casinos and bars plan festivities, mayor gives ‘leprechaun’ key to the city

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Richard Brian

Guests ride a gondola through the green canal in the Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. The canal was dyed green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day Tuesday.

Updated Tuesday, March 17, 2009 | 7:10 p.m.

St. Patrick's Day in Las Vegas

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The Strip was awash in green on Tuesday. Not just from the expected shamrock decorations and green water at the Venetian, but also on the shirts, hats and mouths of visitors.

Yes mouths -- the green-colored drinks in many people’s hands have the very obvious side effect of turning tongues and teeth green.

Two of the green-mouthed visitors to the Strip, Kristen Langevin and Kim Brunelle, had the fortunate coincidence of St. Patty’s Day occurring during their spring break at the University of Rhode Island. The two figured it was the perfect opportunity for their first visit to Las Vegas.

“You can’t compare this to Florida,” Langevin said.

“It’s Sin City. It’s unlike anything else,” she added, standing outside of O’Sheas while waiting to take a photo with Lucky the leprechaun.

Lucky was a pretty busy guy. He got a ceremonial key to the city from Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, as well as one of the mayor's personalized gaming chips. Lucky, whose real name is Brian Thomas, stands four-foot, one-inch tall.

Lucky then spent at least part of the afternoon posing for pictures with girls, while their male companions held their purses and oversized drinks.

The party at O’Sheas spilled out of the casino and onto the side street, where a band played live music.

Jim Charles from Golden, Colo., stood at the edge of the crowd watching people queue up to get more to drink.

“I’ve been here several times, but never for St. Patrick’s Day before,” he said. “I’ve been to other big parties, and this seems mostly the same. Lots of people, lots of bands, lots of beer.”

The St. Patrick’s Day partying was not confined to the Strip.

Fado Irish Pub and Restaurant on Eastern Avenue in Henderson set up a tent for live bands and beer.

“We just thought we would invite 2,000 of our closest friends to a little party in Henderson,” general manager Eian Fulton said.

The proximity to home and large quantities of beer were draws for the locals.

“We’ve lived here way too long to go to the Strip anymore,” said Larry Foster, who lives just down the street.

“We love Fado,” his wife Deanne Foster added to their reasoning for their 5 p.m. visit to the pub. “And we’re Irish and we love to drink.”

Fado also decided to use the holiday as an opportunity to raise funds for charity.

The restaurant has been selling donor cards, and by mid-afternoon had already raise $2,000 for the March of Dimes. It hoped to raise another $2,000 before the party was over, employee Terry Koszewnik said.

In return, the organization sent volunteers to help run the event and clean up afterward.

While many across Las Vegas were celebrating St. Patrick's Day with traditional green beer, several people at Hash House A Go Go started the morning with green faces.

The contestants participated in a corned beef eating contest in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Contestants had to be the first to finish two pounds of cooked corned beef and a wedge of cabbage. The winner received 52 $15 gift certificates -- the equivalent of one free breakfast a week for one year -- while second place received a $100 gift certificate, with $25 for third place.

Winner Ron Koch, 62, announced when he walked in that he could finish the dish in two-and-a-half minutes, but it took him more than 15 minutes.

“I came in here with winning on my mind, I did not come in here to lose. There was only one point at the beginning where I couldn’t swallow – after that I started breaking it apart and got back on pace,” said Koch, the oldest contestant of the group.

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Eating contest winner Rob Koch licks his plate clean at a corned beef eating contest. Morrison went on the win second place in the contest.

Hash House owner Jim Rees said he hopes to make the eating contest an annual event.

Two judges were on hand to make sure contestants were following the rules: Peter O’Donnell of The Scintas and Steve Young, a Certified Angus Beef representative.

At O'Sheas Casino on the Strip, Lucky the leprechaun got a ceremonial key to the city from Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, as well as one of the mayor's personalized gaming chips. Lucky, whose real name is Brian Thomas, stands four-foot, one-inch tall.

Down at the Rio, the St. Patrick’s Day festivities got started early with $10 unlimited green beer from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

“The first beer bong happened around 7:30 a.m.,” McFadden’s event coordinator Mandy Bell said.

There already were about 20 people in the bar at about 7 a.m., including Jeanne Slingluff, who took the day off for the festivities.

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Contestant Randall Morrison eyes the mountain of corned beef that lies in front of him at a corned beef eating contest for St. Patrick's Day Tuesday. Morrison went on the win second place in the contest.

“We tried really hard to get here at 7 a.m., but didn’t make it in here until about 7:15 a.m. because it was our day off,” Slingluff said. “But we do this every year and did the halfway to St. Patty’s Day, too.”

Slingluff and friends were toasting green beers while covered from head to toe in Irish-inspired accessories, like shamrock stickers on their cheeks and green metallic Mardi Gras-style beads. She said they took the theme seriously this year and even decorated their apartment with shamrocks hanging from the ceiling.

Dan Mathes, a bartender and host of security at McFadden’s, said the party can get just as colorful as the décor.

“We had a line that was 300 people long last year -- people are willing to wait in line up to an hour just to come through,” he said. “We’ve got leprechauns running around, we’ve got Irish bagpipers, Celtic dancers, the list goes on and on.”

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