Each March 17, you are all but guaranteed to be basking in Irish culture, from corned beef and cabbage to shamrocks and shillelaghs. This year, the Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts is getting into the spirit with the first annual St. Paddy's Palooza.

"We offer dance and music lessons primarily, and we were realizing that we've got a really neat fiddle workshop that's gone on this year, several different themes throughout the year and then we've got Irish dance and a few independent students and instructors who had Celtic or Irish-style pieces ready to go," said BCAPA Executive Director Laurel Woodward-Breckbill, "so we thought, you know what, that's a great time to pull all these pieces together and have a little concert."

This coming Saturday, as part of the St. Paddy's Palooza, 20 BCAPA students and instructors will perform a variety of pieces — from Celtic music to Irish jigs, with some dramatic readings planned as well.

Part of the idea behind the extravaganza, according to Woodward-Breckbill, was also to incorporate more cross-department collaboration and have different types of performers sharing the stage.

"We're working out those little details, but we'll have a few pieces where there are both dancers and musicians playing at the same time," Woodward-Breckbill said.

For instance, dance students may perform a jig with a BCAPA fiddler, just one of the variety of selections that will be featured at the extravaganza on March 17. Woodward-Breckbill said harp music will be featured as part of Saturday's festivities, as will a range of groups (from soloists to large ensembles).

While the performances will celebrate Irish traditions, Woodward-Breckbill said there is another, less publicized part of the festivities that she is looking forward to that will equally highlight the culture.

"I think the really special thing that we have following the performance is we've got a homemade soup supper with potato soups, homemade Irish breads, treats, a whole bunch of things and a raffle," Woodward-Breckbill said.

Raffle items include discounts on upcoming workshops, two tickets to the spring dance showcase, gift baskets and more.

BCAPA currently has more than 200 school-age students enrolled in the program, with a handful to perform as part of St. Paddy's Palooza. Woodward-Breckbill is looking forward to the event as an opportunity to get to know more about a potentially unfamiliar culture, as well as offering an opportunity for the community to get to know more about BCAPA.

"We're always looking for ways to interact with our community, and not just your traditional recital. (We want to) make it more interactive and educational as well. One thing that's really exciting about this is that we're highlighting very traditional Irish pieces and Irish traditions, like the dancing," Woodward-Breckbill said. "BCAPA is kind of a hidden gem. We've got a lot or really talented students and instructors, and this event is really highlighting that."

St. Paddy's Palooza will also be a fundraiser event for BCAPA (with a suggested donation of $10 for admission), though Woodward-Breckbill noted that isn't the major focus in the first year of the event. The St. Patrick's Day festivities will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. in the chapel of the administration building on the Bethel College campus. For more information, visit www.bcapaks.org.