The luck of the Irish has been kind to Kenny Mount. When he followed his dream to open a clubhouse in Bakersfield for friends and family to celebrate their Irish heritage, he imagined a room full of smiling eyes of all ages joined in a common bond.
Now, a year after putting his plan into action with the help of some friends and a lot of faith, he's eager to show off the fruits of their labor when the Irish Heritage Club of Bakersfield celebrates on Saturday with a daylong party in commemoration of the milestone.
The public is welcome and admission is free.
"Our club is for people who like things about Ireland," said Mount, 41.
"If you have no idea about Ireland, you should come on out. We want to share our culture with the world. It's also potluck, so anything goes. You're likely to see some shepherd's pie, various meat and potato dishes -- a lot of Irish comfort food."
Wedged between the Saigon Vietnamese restaurant and a beauty salon, the intimate suite transports visitors back to Ireland within moments.
Mount hoped when he and his friends started the club that they'd get a good response, in part because of the success of events put on by their Celtic brethren in the Kern County Scottish Society, which boasts a large membership.
"I didn't know how the city would receive it when we first opened our doors last year. I knew the club would be good, but the clubhouse is small. It's not a big pub or anything like the typical Irish-themed bar."
Decorated with furnishings you'd find in a cozy Irish tavern, the space usually surprises first-time visitors, Mount said.
"It's an awesome feeling. The people who appreciate the club the most are the people who've been to Ireland. You can see the reaction right away. The longer they stay, the better it gets. Last Friday night it felt like I was in Waterford."
The mood is set by the lighting, furniture, art, warm colors, which greet members and revelers who stop in during scheduled meetings on the first and third Friday of every month.
Anyone is welcome to join the club, regardless of affiliation with the motherland. All that's required is an open mind, appreciation and respect. There are 130 registered members and always room for more, Mount said.
"Our membership from our first year is down a little bit at the moment. Right now, we're at a place where the regulars are the ones who are there every meeting."
Rent is paid by monthly membership dues, which also cover maintenance, utilities and upkeep of the venue. Anything left over pays for fun activities.
"The movie nights we throw are always good. We've shown 'P.S. I Love You,' 'Leap Year,' 'The Quiet Man' and we have plans for a 'Boondock Saints' night coming up," Mount said.
Another of the club's highlights is the bar top, where visitors chat it up while siping whiskey, beer or non-alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is prohibited from being sold inside, but members are welcome to bring their own and are given the option of having their most prized bottle stored inside until their next visit.
"We sell no alcohol at the clubhouse, but you can bring your own drink of choice and enjoy it at the bar. The only beverages we sell are sodas and tea. There's actually a song called 'A Pub with No Beer.' That's us. We don't focus on the pub culture. That's kind of a stereotype. In Ireland, you'll see kids with families."
And what's an Irish club without music? On Monday nights you can check out the open Irish jam held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., featuring skilled tunesmiths on traditional instruments like the bodhran, bouzouki, fiddle, guitar, flute and pipes. In the future, the club plans to offer an Irish dance class, dart matches, more traditional breakfast mornings, plus continue to offer instruction on how to have the ideal Ireland vacation direct from the experts.
"I've already worked out three itineraries for travelers. We can also set them up with people over there to show them around," Mount said, adding that the club hopes to reach nonprofit status by the end of the year, allowing it to extend many of its art and cultural outreach programs in the community.
"The more we learn about different traditions and cultures, the smarter we'll all be. If you like U2, you'll love the all the other things we have to share about being Irish-American."