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Celebrating 'The Great Day' on Lake Michigan's Beaver Island

On Beaver Island, St. Patrick's Day means celebrating history, singing and dancing and throwing a frozen fish as far as you can.

Every year, islanders compete in a series of silly games — just one part of the festivities on what they simply call "The Great Day."

Listen to some of the festivities via the audio player above.

Beaver Island's relationship with Irish history and heritage stretches back generations.

"St. Patrick's Day for us, is a little bit different, because we're remembering the people that passed and went before us, and we're thankful for what they did to create what we have now," said Paul Cole, who was born and raised on Beaver Island.

Many here can trace their roots back to Arranmore, an island off the northwest coast of Ireland. Cole's great grandparents are among those who originated there.

"A part of my heart is in Arranmore," he said. "I've been there eight times. ... I'm going to be cremated. Part of my ashes will be on Arranmore, and part of them will be here, and truly, that's what my ancestors would want."

Patrick Shea was a natural resources reporter at Interlochen Public Radio. Before joining IPR, he worked a variety of jobs in conservation, forestry, prescribed fire and trail work. He earned a degree in natural resources from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, and his interest in reporting grew as he studied environmental journalism at the University of Montana's graduate school.