The magnetic sign on the side of Jeff Kwiat's Jeep says it all – “$50 and beer will get you some bagpipes.”
Kwiat, on Saturday, may have bent his own rules just a tad as he played the Pass Christian St. Paddy's Day parade. He marched the route with the Bay Ratz Marching Battery, a drum line from Bay St. Louis.
The former Chicago firefighter said he moved to Bay St. Louis about two years ago, bringing the festive nature of the holiday in Chicago with him.
“In Chicago, St. Patrick's Day is a huge celebration,” Kwiat said. “I played bagpipes with other firefighters in the Highland Garden neighborhood.”
He said he helped form the group after a special trip to New York.
“We went to help out in New York after 9/11 and the firefighters had drum and bagpipe groups there and we decided that was something we needed to bring back to Chicago – we started with six people and there are more than 150 members today.”
Bagpipes are a Celtic instrument that use air from an inflated bag to maintain a constant sound. The instrument contains four reeds, Kwiat said – two tenor drones, a bass drone and a drone for the chanter.
“I pretty much taught myself how to play,” he said. “I can't read music but I can play by ear.”
And although his offer to play for a little cash and a few beers my seem reasonable, Kwiat said his phone hasn't exactly been blowing up with people wanting to book him for a gig.
“I haven't had a lot of response, yet, but I love doing it and I will do it whenever I can,” he said.