Shawn Loter

Shawn Loter, general manager of the Mississippi Valley Fair, walks through the fairgrounds Monday, talking about changes made to various aspects of this year’s event.

Kevin E. Schmidt, QUAD-CITY TIMES

The home of the Mississippi Valley Fair is entering the St. Patrick’s Day game.

The Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds will throw its firstr St. Patrick's Day party on March 16-17, the venue announced on Tuesday.

Fair general manager Shawn Loter said he got the idea after hearing about the August closing of Kelly’s Irish Pub & Eatery, the Davenport establishment that had hosted a St. Patrick’s Day festival for 13 years.

“It’s the biggest party around except for our fair,” Loter said. “Kelly’s closed and I thought, well, this is the perfect opportunity.”

As it turns out, however, Kelly’s turn as party host isn’t over.

Dan Kelly, who owned the business that shared his name, is planning his own St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

Just before noon Tuesday, shortly after the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds sent a press release announcing its two-day bash, Kelly created a Facebook event for a St. Patrick’s Day party to be held in partnership with Front Street Brewery at the Freight House in downtown Davenport.

“I didn’t think he would host one since it closed,” Loter said in a phone interview on Tuesday, after learning about Kelly’s event.

Kelly said he has heard from several former festival attendees who were “worried” about what to do for St. Patrick’s Day this March.

“People were like, what are we going to do that weekend? Because they went to my party every year,” he said. “It seemed too much fun to let that party go away.”

Kelly also has heard about new celebrations popping up, such as the party at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.

“A lot of people are going to have a party, especially when they thought Kelly’s won’t be there,” he said. “Honestly, I think it’s kind of flattering. They say imitation is the best form of flattery.”

Kelly’s multi-day festival was attended by as many as 20,000 people in recent years and featured skydiving leprechauns, live music, more than 100 kegs of beer and specialty Irish fare.

While the details are “still up in the air,” Kelly said the March 16-17 party is “shaping up to be the biggest one I’ve ever had.”

“That weekend was my favorite part of my job,” he said. “It just makes sense to keep doing it.”

Meanwhile, Loter said he “isn’t worried” about any competition for St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

“The more, the merrier,” he said. “People can visit both places. It’s going to be a good time for all.”

The fairgrounds festival will include "Top bands playing a variety of music, skydivers dressed as leprechauns, a great selection of good food and plenty of green beer," according to the news release.

Loter, who took over as general manager in January 2016, said his goal is to bring visitors to the fairgrounds throughout the year, beyond the fair, which is set for July 31-Aug. 5.

“I want to get people together to have a good time at the fairgrounds for not just the fair,” he said. “My vision is to get bigger events out here.”

At the fairgrounds, doors will open at 5 p.m. Friday, March 16 and at 11 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17. Admission is free.


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).