Ireland Sweepstakes Makes Travel Dreams Come True
GILFORD— When Anne DeSantis was 6 years old, her first-grade teacher traveled to Ireland, and, when she came home, she walked the class through the experience of visiting the sprawling countryside.
“She showed us a whole slideshow,” DeSantis recalled. “We saw the day she visited Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone. She created this image in my mind at a time when I was just starting to learn about my Irish heritage.”
Throughout her life, DeSantis held the fantasy that, one day, she would visit the land of her ancestors and kiss the revered Blarney Stone herself. The stay-at-home mom from Palmer, Massachusetts, thought that trek was still far in the future—until she took part in Patrick’s Pub & Eatery’s “Take Me to Ireland Sweepstakes” in 2016.
After a long afternoon of dining one fall afternoon that year—and waiting anxiously— DeSantis had a moment that was as magical for her as it was surreal. Patrick’s co-owner Allan Beetle announced her name as the winner of the trip for two to Ireland, and she let out a scream her son said could be heard out on Route 11.
Last March, DeSantis and her husband, Scott, joined other travelers on the Patrick’s Ireland trip. She has since thanked us over and over, saying she will never forget the experience.
“It was so fun to have Anne on the trip. She was incredibly enthusiastic and grateful,” said Beetle.
This fall, some other lucky traveler can take a chance at winning a trip again as Patrick’s annual sweepstake event is back! The winner will receive airfare and luxury accommodations to Ireland for two people from March 9 to 18, 2019, a value of $2,375 per person.
The trip package puts the winner in Ireland just in time for St. Patrick’s Day and includes stops at Belleek Pottery, Blarney Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, the Connemara Celtic Crystal Factory, the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, and Slieve League Cliffs.
Beetle will select the 10 finalists in random drawings on Saturday, Nov. 17, beginning at approximately 3 p.m. Contestants must be 21 or older and must be present to win.
“Make sure you commit to attending,” Beetle said. “Anne was almost not there the year that she won!”
That year, DeSantis had learned about the contest while visiting her condo in Laconia in October 2016, and she’d filled out an entry form to win. She also marked her calendar, noting the date she needed to be at Patrick’s for the drawing.
But when that day came, there were many obstacles to DeSantis leaving her home in Palmer. Her daughter had strep throat, and her husband had a commitment that would not allow him to care for her. So, DeSantis improvised a plan. But then she couldn’t find her car keys.
Finally, DeSantis and her son Ryan broke away with just enough time to arrive at Patrick’s for the beginning of the sweepstakes. The parking lot was packed with cars. The restaurant was standing-room-only, but DeSantis had called ahead to reserve a table in the Emerald Room.
“It was electric in there,” she said. “My son and I kept saying, ‘Somebody in this building is winning a trip to Ireland today.’”
Live Irish music played while Allan and Jennifer Beetle called out names. Dozens of people were not present, but soon they were down to the 10 finalists. When the ninth was called, it was time for DeSantis to pay her check. She had nearly given up.
As she was searching for her wallet in her purse, she heard her name announced as the last finalist, and she bolted to the pub stage. She waited through the reverse drawing of the 10 finalists, with each receiving a prize as they were eliminated from the grand prize. DeSantis was the last of two to survive.
“I literally was shaking when it got down to two,” DeSantis said. “When Allan called my name, my arms shot up, and I screamed. I felt nauseous, like I was going to faint. It was the most unbelievable, fabulous moment.
“I just had a feeling,” DeSantis added. “I can’t explain it. I felt like I had to be there, and I couldn’t leave until I was sure they didn’t say my name. It was such a surreal experience.”
The trip itself, in March, also exceeded DeSantis’ expectations. She saw beautiful castles, went on horse-drawn carriage rides, and she did get to kiss the Blarney Stone. She loved the sheep that dotted the countryside best.
“They were everywhere!” DeSantis said. “Some were painted with green or purple spots, which is how the shepherds tell them apart. I even got to hold a day-old lamb.
“It was such a magical trip, one that will live in my heart and memory forever.”