EMERALD ISLE - After a three-year hiatus, the eagerly awaited Saint Patrick's Day Festival returned to Emerald Isle this pasts weekend as families and friends came together to enjoy the celebration.

The festival has been a beloved tradition in the community for over three decades. It was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns in 2020 and 2021 and then due to bad weather in 2022.

In addition to a ride-only day held Friday, March 11, attendees could enjoy browsing 75 arts and craft vendors and 25 food trucks scattered throughout the Emerald Isle Plantation on Saturday.

The festival drew an impressive turnout this year despite the long break, with town staff estimating approximately 50,000 festivalgoers throughout the two days.

Sharing their enthusiasm for the festivities was Emily Davis of Morehead City.

"Parking was a little crazy, but we made it," Davis said. "We've been looking forward to this for a couple years."

Families like Mike Warren's, who have attended the festival every year, enjoyed spending quality time together listening to the bands play under the beer tent.

"My brother lives on the island, so it's always fun to come out here," Howard said. "Beer, music, it's just a great time. The crowd is so pumped up."

Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Director Candace Dooley expressed her satisfaction with the festival's turnout, saying the amount of people who showed up exceeded her expectations.

"We want to give a huge thank you to our sponsors for making it possible, our vendors and entertainment for creating an excellent experience and the town of Emerald Isle's staff for all their hard work," Dooley said. "There's only 365 more days until the next St. Patrick's Festival, and we can hardly wait."

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