Heritage and family are cause for celebration at Kennedy’s in St. Agatha

Sláinte! Mike Kennedy with a pint of “the dark stuff”, Guinness, one of the popular drinks that will be served over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

St. Patrick’s Day is huge at Kennedy’s Restaurant in St. Agatha, which is why the party lasts four days. Owner Mike Kennedy proudly boasts that the Irish are great at celebrating things.

“Any excuse,” he says with a smile.

This summer, his restaurant’s doors will have been open for 35 years – “It’s the longest I’ve ever held a job” – but to Kennedy, St. Patrick’s Day is a bigger deal, so he won’t be making too much fuss about his business’s anniversary. “We might have something in August maybe, but not a big bang.”

The venue has a rich history. It was once a stagecoach stop, a place where horse-powered travellers would rest during their journey. “Erb St. was the road to Goderich, and for people coming from Kitchener, that’s as far as they could go in one day. Now, you could be there in two hours in a car.”

Since 1985, the storied building has been home to an authentic Irish restaurant, which Kennedy runs with his wife Linda and son Patrick.

Erik and Sandra Kuttis, who were recently presented with the St. Agatha Citizens of the Year award at Kennedy’s, are practically part of the family. Sandra started working in the kitchen in 1987, while Erik began as a waiter in 1989. Romance soon blossomed.

“Our first meeting happened quite accidentally,” reminisces Erik. “The kitchen would turn on a server’s numbered light to notify them of their order. I always forgot to turn mine off, so Sandra would turn it off for me. One time, I actually remembered, reached across to turn it off, but Sandra was already there. Our fingers touched over #6, and the rest is history. We married in 1995 and we’ll celebrate 25 years of wedded bliss in April. Mike was one of the groomsmen, and Linda was our Emcee.”

Kuttis remembers St. Patrick’s Day was always a highlight at Kennedy’s. “It would run for days and seemed to be non-stop. People would line up early in the morning to get in, and the local TV news cameras would start around noon. Kennedy’s was packed from open until close.”

“We’ve been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day every year since we opened,” says Kennedy. “When we started, nobody was celebrating it in Kitchener-Waterloo, but we kept going and adding things, and it got to be really big.”

This year’s four-day festivities begin on Friday, March 13, continue through Saturday and Sunday, skipping Monday, when the restaurant is closed, and ends with a big finale on Tuesday, March 17.

During the annual celebrations, the restaurant is a popular destination, attracting devotees from Toronto, St. Catherine’s and Windsor. Kennedy says “People come from London (Ontario) just to hear Tony Nother,” an Irish-born entertainer who has been performing at Kennedy’s since the early days. “He does a good Irish sing-along.”

There’s plenty of music, storytelling, and Irish dancers, many of whom have been St. Paddy’s Day fixtures since they were kids. Some of those youthful dancers became world-class performers in the Riverdance show, as well as on Broadway. They’re now teaching the younger generation that currently entertains audiences at Kennedy’s.

No self-respecting St. Patrick’s Day celebration would be complete without a pint of Guinness, a stout that originated in Dublin. A quick gander at the seasonal menu shows plenty of traditional fare, such as Irish stew and corn beef with cabbage.

Although he’s celebrating his heritage and past, Kennedy is also anticipating fresh beginnings.

“St. Patrick’s Day is great for us. We look forward to it every year. The winter’s over, and we’re starting a new season.”

Linda and Mike Kennedy under the old servers’ number sign that once helped romance to blossom at Kennedy’s Restaurant in St. Agatha.