Four years ago, a group of friends in a pickup truck went out to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, not as a way to celebrate the Irish as it was to celebrate life. They ended up at the Shell Factory.
On Friday, hundreds of green-clad revelers found an excuse to celebrate life in the parking lot of the Shell Factory for what has become one of its big annual events.
The event featured Irish music, Irish dancing, Irish food, green beer, and much more under two tents. Perhaps most important, it featured people getting together for a great time.
Members of the Drake School of Irish Dance from Sarasota do some soft shoe dancing during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Shell Factory on Friday. The school is one of the best in the country for this type of event.
Pam Cronin, who has both Irish and German heritage, couldn't help but marvel of what this day has become.
"Isn't this wonderful? We had to turn the parking lot around. We had 50 people a few years ago, now look - we're standing room only," Cronin said. "We have the dancers performing twice and Crazy Larry the Leprechaun and lots of snowbird Canadians here eating corned beef and cabbage."
Capt'n Fishbone's Grill served up Irish Stew, corned beef and cabbage and shepherd's pie, and the Drake School of Irish Dance, one of the best such places in the country, performed twice with both hard and soft shoes.
Chuck Peterson entertained the masses with Irish music, whether as a DJ or singer, all afternoon. There was also an Irish costume contest for prizes.
Many who showed up looked as though they could win a costume contest.
Heidi Draper, of South Fort Myers, who also works at the Shell Factory, went medieval Irish, with a dark green dress that made her look as though she was going to see King Arthur.
"I did this in support of St. Patrick's Day and the Irish. I had the outfit and was going to wear a plaid-green dress, but I went traditional," Draper said. "Everyone is a little Irish today. It celebrates those who came here from Ireland and helped build this great country."
Linda Rockwell, of North Fort Myers, wore a hat that had a half-Irish, half Kentucky Derby thing going, full of green and feathers.
"I've done it the last six years. I'm Irish all the time and when I think of today, I think of green," Rockwell said.
Charlotte Millen came with her friends, the same group that started the whole thing a few years ago. She had the Irish spirit.
"It's about family, fun and celebration. Today, everyone is Irish," Millen said.