There might be a few leprechauns roaming the streets of downtown Madison on Friday, but they will be searching for something other than a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Madison will celebrate its Irish roots Friday with St. Paddy's Party from 5 to 9 p.m. 

The party will include a leprechaun dress-up contest, Taste of Ireland - which tours nine downtown eateries and bars - and the crowd favorite Irish Road Bowling.

Those participating in Irish bowling will roll cannonballs down the alley south of Main Street between Jefferson and West streets. The concept of the game is easy: The team with the fewest throws wins.

Steve Thomas, owner of Thomas Family Winery and member of the Celtic Society, said the sport began sometime in the 17th century, when Irish natives would steal 2-pound cannonballs and roll them down the road.

The game is played in teams of two and includes a "thrower" and a "shower," which is the person who helps the shooter line up the shot. There will be an adult-sized and children's sized ball available.

Thomas said the event drew about 40 participants last year, the first year it was held.

"It's a lot of fun, and it's very social," he said. "Everybody kind of discovered Madison's Irish heritage, which is more deep and rich then some realize."

Madison has a history of Irish laborers, many of whom came to the area in the mid-1800s to construct the railroad incline. Completed in 1841, the Madison incline of 7,012 feet was - and remains today - the steepest grade of any line-haul railroad in the country. 

The Madison Area Chamber of Commerce and Madison Celtic Society will be on-site to give pointers and keep score. Everyone can try their luck and everyone will receive a prize.  

Thomas said the Celtic Society plans to form a league and hold road bowling once a month.

In addition to bowling, St. Paddy's Party will include a A Taste of Ireland, which will tour nine restaurants and bars downtown.

Tickets for the event had to be purchased by Wednesday. They were $20 to taste at five of Madison's participating restaurants or $35 to taste all nine locations.

Each restaurant will provide one traditional Irish dish or beverage. There is potato soup at Red Pepper Deli, mobreki handcrafted beer at The Pub, shepherd's pie at Franco's, cheese & Guinness fondue at Broadway Hotel & Tavern, Irish coffee at Joeyg's, smoked salmon bisque at Thomas Family Winery, Irish barnburner burger at Hinkles Sandwich Shop, Irish apple cake at Gallery 115 and Guinness at Electric Lady.

Diners can present their ticket at these restaurants to receive their dish in any order they choose.

The event has risen from five to nine restaurants since last year.

Also during the event, those looking for the leprechaun dress-up contest can stop at the tent between Main Street and the parking lot on Mulberry Street, have a picture taken and register.

A prize of $25 will be awarded for the best leprechaun.

Also in the tent, Madison's Irish heritage will be on display along with Irish dancers and pipers.

Free trolley rides are available throughout the day. 

For more information or to purchase A Taste of Ireland tickets, contact VisitMadison at 800-559-2956. 

Separate from St. Paddy's Party, the Jewel House also on Friday will host an Irish celebration open to the public at 1 p.m.

There will be food, refreshments and music presented by the Madison Celtic Society.

On Saturday, Thomas Family Winery also will hold its St. Patrick's Day celebration from 8 to 11 p.m. The night will include Irish dishes, Irish trivia and prizes.