Alexandria, VA – On Friday, March 13, the Rotary Club of Alexandria Central hosted its second annual Sips for Saints, a fun and festive fundraiser benefiting local charities. Draped in the lovely Irish themes of emerald green and shamrocks, the event was opened by the one and only Old Town Crier, Ben Fiore-Walker, who welcomed the crowd and kicked things off in verse, naturally.
As the sweet sounds of Irish music filled the beautiful space, food and drink aplenty kept the crowd satisfied and cheerful. Restaurant sponsors included BoneFish, Café 44, Della J’s Delectables, Dishes of India, Glory Days, Hard Times, Lost Boy Cider, Murphy’s, Rocklands, Tempo, Together We Bake, and Sonoma Cellar.
The crowd feasted on lobster gnocchi from Bonefish, barbecue pork and delicious collard greens from Della J’s, palak paneer (spinach and cheese) from Dishes of India, and scrumptious pudding desserts from Tempo Restaurant, just to name a few. Wine from Sonoma Cellar, beer from Port City, cider from Lost Boy, and several varieties of Jameson whiskey flowed freely as well.
The crowd was awed by the beautiful music of violinist Marlisa del Cid Woods of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, an Emerald sponsor of the event. The dancers of the Boyle School of Irish Dance tapped their way across the marble floors in front of an enrapt crowd. From traditional Irish songs to the contemporary “Wake Me Up,” the dancers, all high school seniors, also performed an acapella dance, and their rhythmic tapping reverberated through the hall.
The entertainment was capped by the O’Neill-James School of Irish Dance, with Mrs. Laureen O’Neill-James and her son, Freddy, guiding their adult dancers through several jigs and reels. Mrs. O’Neill-James, whose mother Peggy O’Neill originally brought Irish dancing to Washington, DC, in 1969, led a special dance where willing party goers joined the troupe and learned a few steps with the dancers.
Raffle winners walked away with gift cards donated by local restaurants and beautiful Irish merchandise donated by the Irish Walk.
Rotary Club President-Elect Paul Kentes was the master of ceremonies, killing it in his kilt and eloquently stating the purpose of his club. “We recently awarded grants to 12 local charities with innovative programs that make good things happen in our city,” he said. Kentes invited the Sips for Saints crowd to join the Rotary Club meetings on Wednesdays at 6:30 at Glory Days Grill. “Our club brings leaders together to exchange ideas, network, enjoy fellowship, and make a difference in our community and world.”
At the evening’s end, Kentes was humbled and grateful. In light of the prevailing coronavirus concerns, he had been in constant contact with the health department leading up to the event, and they got the go-ahead to proceed, thankfully. “We spent the last two months putting it all together, and I had an amazing team who made it possible.” That includes the time and energy given by the dedicated volunteers, and the heavy lifting by all the restaurant sponsors not only with their in-kind donations, but also traveling to the event and providing the food and drink, all while meeting health department codes. Kentes said, “Our city needed this.” As Mrs. O’Neill-Flynn was leaving, Kentes asked if she’d be back next year. She smiled and said, “Of course! I’ll always be here for you.”