AUBURN — With a beer in hand while decked out in green, David McKeon couldn't help but think of his dad, William McKeon, at the Ancient Order of Hibernians' St. Patrick's Day celebration Saturday.
David said his family's Irish heritage was important to William, to the point where the holiday is the day "I remember him the most." David proudly noted his father was a charter family of the local Hibernians club, which had been open to the public for the last several days.
AOH president Bob Oliver said earlier in the week family is extremely important to members and that the holiday helps families celebrate their heritage. Oliver said he believes the club has an extremely friendly atmosphere.
"It's just a barrel of fun, you don't leave there not smiling," Oliver said. "The friendship, unity, and Christian charity, that's what it's all about. We don't mind an ice-cold libation, either."'
Oliver and his daughter Heather Roberts could be seen at the celebration Saturday. They were both drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, the favored drink of the late Paul "Jake" Oliver, Bob Oliver's father and Roberts' grandfather. Roberts noted "a good chunk" of the Oliver family tree was at the club. They were not alone, with several people seen throughout the club eating food, drinking beer and trading jokes.
"How ya doing?" and "How ya been?" could be heard every few minutes at the club Saturday afternoon. Kevin Finizio and other bartenders rarely stood still for long, frequently pouring drinks and getting ice. Images of clovers were peppered throughout the club, with a massive image of a clover adorning the part of Van Anden Street right in front of the club.
Several members of the Maher family were at the event, with the children often playing games. Layla Maher, 3, danced at a stage area nearby at one point. Different children could be seen sitting on family member Melanie Maher's lap.
"It's a nice opportunity for families to get together," Sharon Maher said.
Gregg Lawson — an AOH member for about a decade – and his wife, Paula, ate food in the corner of one of the rooms, with Paula's sister Sharon Burke occasionally sitting down to chat. Burke, who had also been working in the club's kitchen, said St. Patrick's Day isn't about stereotypes of Irish people drinking.
"It's about heritage," Burke said. "Keeping your ancestors alive."