The Bally Hotel prepares for St. Patrick's Day Irish Wake

BALLY, Pa. - The luck of the Irish is alive and well in Berks County, as organizers at The Bally Hotel gear up for the 45th annual Irish Wake, which begins Friday, ahead of St. Patrick's Day.

Hotel owner Ian Meinzer said employees spend more than six months preparing for the event.

"Three to four days of party, booze," Meinzer said. "Around here, there's not [that] many big parties this often. When it's run as long as it has, everyone knows about it, looks forward to it."

"It's always a good time, always good time," said Christopher Miller, a three-time attendee.

People come from near and far to get this taste of the Irish culture. This weekend, the Bally Hotel expects to draw up to 5,000 people.

"A lot of fun, see a lot of hometown guys and girls I grew up with," Miller said. "It's always a yearly tradition."

"The live music, the crowd is always very energetic. It's fun," said David Clauser, a longtime customer.

The event in Bally traces its roots back to the 1970s, but Irish wakes go way back.

"The tradition is when someone passes away, you celebrate their life, not passing," Meinzer explained.

At this Irish wake, tradition holds if you can wake the "dead lady" who lies in a coffin, near the center stage, and get her to smirk or smile, customers get a prize.

"For years, we always had a man. Then a few years ago, I figured it's 2017, it's time for a lady in the coffin," Meinzer said.

It's not just fun and games for the grownups, there's also a "Family Fun Day" for the kids on St. Patrick's Day.

"Arts and crafts that are free, games – winner every time, magician at 10:30, karaoke," Meinzer said.

Both the owner and visitors agree they can't imagine spending St. Patrick's Day anywhere else.

"Celebrate the Irish culture," Clauser said.

"It's just one of those great holidays," Meinzer said.

The event runs Friday through Sunday.

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