By: Amanda Hume

For the past eight years, Grand Rapids has been home to Michigan’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration—Irish on Ionia. This event celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with green beer, food, Irish dancing, and musical performances.

Irish on Ionia is located in the heart of Grand Rapids, on Ionia Street. The entire road is blocked off from 7 am to 10 pm for the festivities. One must purchase a ticket to enter. These tickets normally go on sale a month in advance with a general admission or VIP option.

But without the use of public relations, the festival might not be where it is today. The large crowds that attend each year is due to the intense amount of promotion. Barfly Ventures puts on this event. They own Hopcat, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Stella’s and The Waldron Public House. This company is the “behind the scenes” of this event.

So how was Irish on Ionia promoted? As I’ve kept up with the event the last few weeks, I noticed they focused on three main areas:

  • Social media promotion
  • Community collaboration
  • Media placements

As many of us PR people know, social media is key when promoting an event. It is an easy way to reach a large audience, so it is no surprise that Irish on Ionia took advantage of it. They focused on the top three most popular social media platforms; Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. When observing their social media posts, it was interesting to see how they used the same content for the posts but modified it for each platform. The use of hashtags was very prevalent when it came to posts on Twitter and Instagram, to help attract specific attention to St. Patrick’s Day, Grand Rapids, and Irish on Ionia. When it came to their Facebook page, enhancing the interaction among attendees was key. It allowed people to post reviews of past experiences or ask questions about this year’s event. It is important for PR pros to look at the feedback so they can make accommodations accordingly.

Local businesses and companies love collaborating with one another, and Irish on Ionia is no exception. The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Experience GR, Dezzi/Uber and Ferris Coffee (who had samples of their new Nitro Cold Brew at this year’s festival!) are just a few of the companies that were excited to be involved in the St. Patrick’s Day event. It’s a great way to grow a consumer base and create relationships within the area.

Also, many appearances were made on local media. Doing this helped connect with the community and make those who aren’t in tune with social media, excited for the event. Liam the Leprechaun showed off event merchandise on a segment on FOX 17, and a member of the Irish on Ionia team talked on WZZM 13. The local radio station, 104.5 SNX, live-tweeted during the event as well.

As you can see, this event can only continue to grow and prosper for years to come. It brings people together and contributes to our city’s namesake: “Beer City USA.” I hope this post has shown you that there is more than just green beer that goes into planning a St. Patrick’s Day event, as well as encourage you to attend next year!



Amanda Hume is a junior at GVSU, majoring in communications with a minor in AD/PR. She is involved with PRSSA, a two-year transitions leader and is a barista at Starbucks on the Pew Campus. She enjoys visiting new coffee shops in the Grand Rapids area, spending time with friends and traveling.