The Irish in Altoona let nothing stop St. Patrick's Day celebration

ALTOONA -- People celebrated St. Patrick's Day at one of the only Irish pubs in the area, and ate traditional Irish meals with meat, even though it was a Lenten Friday.

Molly MacGuire's started the St. Paddy's festivities Thursday night, and will continue through the weekend.

John Pentlland and his wife, Claudia, own the bar, and said they only provide authentic Irish traditions.

"If you want green beer, I suggest you want a very nice German place cause that's not Irish," Pentlland said.

The bar has become a tradition for many locals like Jamie McCusker,

"Well, if you can't be in Ireland, you have to be at Molly McGuire's," McCusker said.

A fire place in the corner has a statue of Saint Patrick onlooking the celebrations, and has a built-in piece of the Blarney Castle that Pentlland said he brought back from Ireland.

The pub serves traditional Irish breakfast and meals throughout the day.

"We make the sheperd's pie the colcannon and the bangers and mash," Pentlland said.

The holiday posed a dilemma for Irish-Catholics in the area because it fell on a Lenten Friday, and all of the traditional Irish meals contain meat. Catholics don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent.

Irish-Catholics in Pittsburgh had no problem. Bishop Zubik granted a dispensation, allowing them to eat meat, and he suggested that in exchange, they abstain from meat on another day.

Bishop Bartchak granted special requests for dispensation, but did not grant a blanket-dispensation for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, meaning Irish Catholics in Altoona were expected to follow the rule as usual.

"Well, I don't know if God knows where the border is," Pentlland said.

Patrick Lang celebrated St. Patrick's Day, which is also his birthday, at Molly MacGuire's. Lang said he agrees with Pentlland.

"The Lenten season is in, but it is St. Paddy's Day," Lang said. "You gotta have your bangers and mash, and you gotta have the authentic Irish breakfast here. It is amazing."

Pub patrons said that without the Irish meals, it wouldn't be the Molly MacGuire's tradition.

"It's just a nice time for people in the community to come out and just have a good time and connect with everybody," Lang said.

The food, beer and live band celebrations continue until 2 a.m., and follow through the weekend.