It was quiet at Drea’s Tavern on St. Patrick’s Day. It might seem unusual for an Irish bar to have so few souls stop in the third week of March, but there were reasons.
“It’s tough to have it during the middle of the week,” bartender Larry Drea said. “So few people can get time off.”
That is why the tavern’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration is usually on the Sunday before, just after Mass at nearby St. Patrick’s Church, which, along with Drea’s and Our Lady of the Fields Shrine, serve as the cultural centers for the Irish community of the crossroads area of Loreto, Wisconsin. That allows people from all over—from the residents of Loreto to those Irish from Southwestern Wisconsin, Madison, Iowa, you name it—to pack Drea’s for the festivities.
Such a celebration has been going on for 57 years, almost the same time that Larry has been tending bar. The establishment has been in his family even longer. Becoming an institution has afforded the pub some insulation that other rural taverns unfortunately do not enjoy in this day and age.
Drea’s is a stop on a mini “world tour,” or pub crawl, that begins at Nachreiner’s in predominantly German-settled Bear Creek, followed by a stop at Welch’s before arriving at Drea’s. My family has made the tour every time...