Sober St. Patrick's Day - A Community Chat with Bill Reilly

Winners Announced! Bill generously provided the following prizes to the following winners chosen at random! Tickets to the event go to Jim Curley. Hats with the event logo go to Thomas Besore and Catherine White! Congrats!

The following is a transcript taken from the LIVE Community Chat chat hosted here at on Monday, March 10, 2014.  The focus for the discussion was the growing, annual phenomenon known as Sober St. Patrick's Day.  The creator of Sober St. Patrick's Day, William Spencer "Bill" Reilly, joined us as our special guest for the discussion.  You can find more information on Sober St. Patrick's Day at  Some editing has been applied for clarity.

Gerry Regan: Céad míle fáilte, a chairde! So glad to see each one of you who have stopped by for today’s LIVE community chat with the team producing Sober St. Patrick’s Day.  I hasten to add, perhaps the liveliest, most spirited annual party found anywhere every March 17 (or thereabouts). Now an international phenomenon. My name is Gerry Regan, and I’ll be the moderator for today’s chat. And a particularly hearty welcome to our special guest, Sober St. Patrick's Day founder and producer Bill Reilly!

John Lee: What are the main changes for the event in NYC this year?

William Spencer Reilly: Larger venue this year to accommodate selling out and a new children's program downstairs.

Jim Curley: I've got one. Are there any sites in the Republic of Ireland that have signed on to Sober St. Patrick? I note that Belfast has a SSP party. If not, is that because that group's effort has not been directed towards Ireland?

William Spencer Reilly: We're working on Dublin with Frances Black for 2015 almost certain it'll happen then. Belfast loves this and wants others to do it, too.

Gerry Regan: That's very exciting, Bill.

Jim Curley: I've been to the first two SSP parties at Regis. Tell me about the venue at Cathedral HS.

William Spencer Reilly: [It has a] larger and a mini theatre downstairs. Much more dancing for everyone this year and our best lineup of talent. for sure.

Gerry Regan: Bill, tell us about the production process -- what is involved for you in assembling these year in and year out? It seems very labor intensive, with not a big margin for hiring help.

William Spencer Reilly: People are now coming to us. Niamh Hyland got us the UCD Choral Scholars great group coming over about 20. Others we seek based on good trad family feel.

Gerry Regan: When do you gear up for the next year's event. March 18? LOL

William Spencer Reilly: July 1 but there's plenty to do from March 18 until then.

Gerry Regan: What are the final 24 hours like, before show time? Do you get any sleep?

William Spencer Reilly: I haven't done my job if the night before is hectic. It's already shifting from me to department heads who are on point day of.

Jim Curley: How much of your aim is sobriety/abstinence in general and how much of it is directed towards sobriety on St. Patrick's Day in particular?

William Spencer Reilly: St. Patrick's Day only. And, we're not against people having a drink or two on the day - just not 7 or and making us all look stupid.

Gerry Regan: So what's the planning like? Who keeps everything running smoothly?

William Spencer Reilly: I keep it running but have a phenomenal associate producer this year in Maureen Donachie thanks to Paul Finnegan at the NY Irish Center. 

John Lee: What other cities do you see this event expanding into?

William Spencer Reilly: Philadelphia here we come! They're already signed up for 2015. Then hopefully, Boston, Chicago, Savannah - AND little towns like Casper, WY, is already doing it.

Thomas Besore: We could sure use this initiative in Chicago! Like New Year's Eve, St Pat's Day is a day to remain indoors for me.

William Spencer Reilly: Can you help me in Chicago, Tom? My nephew is Alderman, Brendan Reilly. 

Thomas Besore: Are you serious? I am acquainted with Brendan and he'd be a great person to get this going here. I live in Brendan's district.

William Spencer Reilly: Great, Tom. Let's talk on March 18, ok?

Thomas Besore: I'll look forward to it.

William Spencer Reilly: Yes, all of our recovery sponsors will have tables at the event. This whole thing grew out of the recovery movement. Check out our sponsors and you'll see.

Catherine White: I live near Toledo Ohio, any chance something like this can be set up there?

William Spencer Reilly: Check out our "Other Cities" page on our website and it explains how, but you need permission and a little money. Details there.

Gerry Regan: Bill, you mention in your promotional material that your personal experience helped inspire Sober St. Patrick's. Can you share any any part of that story?

William Spencer Reilly: Yes, watch the other video on our "Donate" page on our website. It tells the story in a few minutes - drunk kid wearing one of those tee shirts "St. Patrick's day today, Hungover tomorrow" Check out the video. An aha moment.

Gerry Regan: Are tickets still available?

William Spencer Reilly: Yes, real easy and not expensive. Tickets ordered on our website but do it soon as we sold out in advance last two years. More room this year though in a larger venue. Tix are only $20, $15, $10 in NYC.

Gerry Regan: What kind of refreshments are available at the event, Bill? And does the ticket include them?

William Spencer Reilly: Pepsi is a sponsor so their various beverages and snacks, Irish Soda bread, fruit, chips, etc.

Jim Curley: I can vouch for the entertainment. First class. Trad musicians like box player John Wheland and fiddler Brian Conway.

Gerry Regan: Here's the program, as posted on the event site: Very impressive roster.

William Spencer Reilly: This year we're putting them all together to create a super ceili band with much more audience dancing. As for Step Dancers, we have Donny Golden's group, and a new singalong with MC Cathy Maguire.

Gerry Regan: I'm intrigued by The Fee Sisters. "Angela, Catriona and Máiréad Fee, 12 year old triplets, are the third generation of two families whose names are synonomous with Irish music and dance in New York City. Billy McComiskey, button accordion wiz, is their uncle, and aunt Bernadette Fee is a dynamic..."

William Spencer Reilly: Triplets. Young girls for our new kids program with 11 year old Hailey Richardson, world chap fiddler, and Donie Carrol.

William Spencer Reilly: I'm looking for two things you might be able to help with: A Chairperson for 2015 (great rolodex who sees the big picture here) and one or two more sponsors for this year, 2014. Thoughts?

Gerry Regan: Malachy McCourt will be present, I see. Is he the MC? "Malachy McCourt, Author, Actor & Raconteur Author, broadcaster and raconteur, Malachy McCourt also enjoys a varied career as a humorist and actor – but definitely not a singer!" (so says Malachy). Too modest, I'd say!

William Spencer Reilly: Cathy Maguire is the MC. A beauty and a killer voice to do our new singalong and a few solos. Also, we're having a surprise star from Ireland (singer) who I can't name. 

Catherine White: What a wonderful line up. I am sure it will be a great time and I wish you success.

William Spencer Reilly: Thanks, Catherine. Hope you can come!

Catherine White: I wish I could but I will be working on that night and I live too far away to attend. I will be thinking about you and the wonderful time you will be having.

Jim Curley: Just signed on. Senior ticket - I knew there was something good about getting on. I will check out the website. Maybe next year I can make the trip to attend. It would make a nice weekend to get away.

Gerry Regan: Bill, can you share any of your personal Irish story? Irish immigrant grandparents, parents? It is, in good measure, that narrative, what The Wild Geese is about.

William Spencer Reilly: Great grandfather kicked out of the house for becoming a Catholic. Then came to Philly then NYC. Great story.

Gerry Regan: What are the initials of the mystery guest, Bill? LOL

William Spencer Reilly: Not on your life, Ger. You'll just have to come and find out!!

Gerry Regan: Great teaser, Bill. We'll definitely come back to you for more ... after March 17. LOL

William Spencer Reilly: Happy to do so. This is a great group.

Gerry Regan: Winding it down for this evening with thanks to Bill ... and Sober St. Patrick's Day(s) worldwide, now and in years to come. :-D

William Spencer Reilly: Thank you, Ger. And, all of you. And, thanks for spreading the word. Lemme know who my Chairman/woman should be, OK?

Gerry Regan: Gang, thanks for helping shed light on this important initiative. Catch you at the next one. The Wild Geese, with you, exploring and celebrating the epic heritage of the Irish ... worldwide! Bye for now!

Thomas Besore: Terrific chat. Thanks!

Catherine White: Thank you Gerry for allowing us to talk to Bill and discover such a wonderful event for St Patrick"s Day.

Gerry Regan: Check out And here's the remarkable video Bill produced to highlight the event: Enjoy!

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Tags: St. Patrick's Day


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