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BELLOWS FALLS — The Guinness tasted just a little sweeter this year: St. Patrick's Day marked the return of normalcy for many in Bellows Falls and Vermont after a major snowstorm earlier in the week cut off electricity and conviviality for days.

Bellows Falls' two renowned Irish pubs gave thanks and celebrated.

Brian Joy, the owner of PK's Pub, said with all of Bellows Falls losing power on Tuesday during the height of the storm, he had no choice but to close the Irish pub, and shift all the perishable food to his small restaurant in Saxtons River, which had power. He then shifted it back when the power came back on the next day.

Joy practiced making a shamrock in the foam of the tall glasses of Guinness he pulled from the tap on Friday afternoon, as people began filtering it to celebrate (in no particular order) being Irish, drinking beer and good food, enjoying your friends and surviving the storm.

Joy had paid for the first beer for any line or highway worker who plowed the roads or fixed the decimated power lines; Rockingham and Bellows Falls were hard hit by the heavy, wet snow.

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Like many in Bellows Falls, being Irish comes naturally. He has his grandfather's shillelagh hanging on a peg behind the bar, ready for an emergency. The shillelagh was brought back from Ireland for his grandfather, Bob Joy. The family traces its heritage to County Kerry, he said.

Dennis Harty of Bellows Falls also can trace his Irish heritage and said he's been coming to PK's since it opened 35 years ago. His great-grandfather Harty came from Ireland. Despite all the Irish immigrants in Bellows Falls, Guinness on draft was unheard of until PK's, said Harty.

Just down Rockingham Street is another Irish bar: Donovan's, named for owner Wayne Ryan's mother. For generations, the popular bar was just called "Nick's."

The Ryan family can match Irish heritage with anybody, Ryan said, as he ate the traditional New England boiled dinner with members of his extended family Friday afternoon. His Irish family came to Vermont via Canada, and crossed frozen Lake Champlain to the Middlebury area. He came to Bellows Falls in the early 1970s.

Another Irish tradition endures, storm or no storm. His wife, Janie Ryan, and her sister, Ellen Podgurski, were busy dishing up what would be 100 free meals of corned beef, cabbage, carrots, turnips and onions, and rye bread. And Guinness cupcakes, Podgurski said.

"It's our way of saying thank you," said Janie Ryan, in the middle of the bar's tiny kitchen, dishing up plates of food, surrounded by family members.

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