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Shockoe Bottom Launches Rival St. Paddy’s Party

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Determined to prove that there's no saturation point when it comes to St. Patrick's Day in Richmond, Shockoe Bottom loyalists have organized a festival to compete with Shamrock the Block, which left the neighborhood for the Boulevard.

Organizers of the new Shockoe Fest say their festival will provide a "family-friendly" alternative. Think bouncy castles and Irish dancers.

"We're not trying to be Shamrock the Block," says co-organizer Heather Dixon, owner of Flipleaf Marketing. "The goal is to have a positive event that goes off without a hitch — no safety concerns."

That means no more viral videos of police fighting a festivalgoer, a flashpoint last year that sparked nearby businesses and others to debate whether the festival had outgrown the area. (Style is one of Shamrock the Block's media partners.)

"We're trying to make a negative into a positive," Dixon says. "It's all the businesses getting together — the first time under one roof — to hold a large event."

Dixon says the group is still awaiting final approval of the festival boundaries from the city, but it will be anchored around the 17th Street Farmers' Market.

Shamrock the Block organizer Mike Murphy downplays the significance of last year's police incident as a factor in the decision to relocate. He says the 11-year-old event, which drew 30,000 people last year, simply became too large for Shockoe Bottom. The website touts the move to the Boulevard off Broad Street as having "more space, better parking and more block to rock!"

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TO GO

Both festivals offer free admission, and are scheduled for Saturday, March 15, at 11 a.m.

Shamrock the Block features beer, food, bands and children's activities, including "McNutzyville," the Richmond Flying Squirrels Kid Zone. Proceeds benefit Fetch a Cure. shamrocktheblock.com.

Shockoe Fest activities will be centered on the 17th Street Farmers' Market, but also include surrounding restaurants "stretching from Shockoe Bottom to the Canal." shockoefest.com.

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