Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chain Livin': Blarney Island

One good thing about living in a "summer home" area is the fact that there are places catering to folks who want to have a good time. Summer is short in these parts so we take advantage of it every way we can. One place to definitely have a good time is Blarney Island

As the name implies, this bar is on an island in the middle of Grass Lake in Antioch, IL. We're not sure if there's much physical land left to the island, but it's a good size thanks to all the decking and docks built around it. You can get there on your own boat, or take the Blarney Island Shuttle from their sister mainland restaurant, The Port o' Blarney. It's only open from May until Early-October.

Photo borrowed from the Lake County History Blog
Originally, the island was built as a small fishing resort In 1906 under a different name. Visitors were also drawn to the area by the big beds of lotus blossoms. "The Island" at one point used to be connected to land, but when the dam went in downriver, Grass Lake rose and left the rest of the property as an island. You can read more at the Lake County History Blog and see some other great photos.

Lotus blossoms today
Nowadays it's a party destination. There are several themed weekends like "Key West Fest", Parrotheads, Blarney Gras, and 80's. There are some night parties like New Year's Eve, Pirates, and Pimps and Hos. We've never been to that last party, but we've seen some revelers at The Port and they really fit the theme. Thursday nights they host drag races. Hundreds of boats come out and anchor to watch the action. The last weekend of the season is the Drink Us Dry Party. Why lug it all back?

Bead tossing during Blarney Gras
Blarney Gras is the biggest weekend. The bands are a bit better than usual and during parts of the event they throw beads from the roof. Sometimes body parts are revealed. According to their marketing Blarney Island is "The Key West of the Midwest" and "A Mile Away from Reality". No wonder people feel safe throwing their inhibitions.

Top:  The Island about ten years ago.  Below:  More recent picture.
Bonus if you can find Dave
We've seen changes over the last ten years. Food used to come from a small BBQ grill and be limited to burgers and brats. Today they have a full kitchen and serve a fine chicken sandwich and the best chicken tenders around. Beer was Bud or Miller. Then Bud had exclusivity for seven years (known in our house as "The Dark Days"). Now MillerCoors has exclusivity! The main floor used to be one one level with picnic tables. Now it's nicely tiered and we have pub tables. There's over 350 boat slips and a helipad. 

What makes Blarney Island fun for us is the people-watching and live music as early as 2pm on the weekends. You see everything here: bachelorette parties, expensive boats, young folks partying hard, and some bad dancing. For some that grew up here, the first trip to Blarney as a 21 yr old is a rite of passage. We've been going to Blarney Island for ten years and we still can't believe how entertaining a day here can be.

Here's Blarney Island's promo video.   We are in it toward the end, but you need to look really hard for us.  This was filmed during a Blarney Gras - it's not always this crazy this early!

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