Indy Irish Fest imports culture from across the pond

The Irish Airs were one of many Irish music groups and performers who provided musical entertainment at Indy Irish Fest on Sunday, Sept. 17, at Military Park. Photo by Nancy Shannon
The Irish Airs were one of many Irish music groups and performers who provided musical entertainment at Indy Irish Fest on Sunday, Sept. 17, at Military Park. Photo by Nancy Shannon

In the tradition of keeping Irish culture alive, the Indy Irish Fest held its 22nd annual festival. Spanning from Sept. 14 through Sept. 17, the event took place in Historic Military Park at White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis. The festival featured a variety of events involving Irish culture, including demonstrations of Irish cultural traditions, Irish dancing and singing, sheep herding, a “Kilted Mile” race and even a show of Irish breed dogs, among other things. Not only did it embrace Irish culture; it also benefitted charity organizations. Honorary Co-Chair of Indy Irish Fest 2017 is Kevin Flynn, who has family from Ireland that give him strong Irish roots. The Irish Fest’s mission is to promote culture and keep it alive through the festival.

Irish Fest offered free admission for the concert preview night, featuring some of the bands who were performing throughout the festival. For $25, visitors aged 21 and older could participate in craft beer tasting and end the night taking home a souvenir pint glass. On Sunday admission was free when guests brought in five non-perishable food items that benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. Althoug, guests were encouraged to donate to the food bank all weekend.

At tents throughout Military Park, various items could be purchased. These tents, known as the Irish Market, were selling Irish scarves, hats, handbags, jewelry, kilts, accessories, religious items and embroidered shirts.

A majority of the space included food tents, selling corned beef sandwiches, fish and chips, reuben fries, macaroni and cheese and corn casserole. Ice cream and lemon freezes were also available for dessert.

Saturday and Sunday at the Celtic Caterer tent, award-winning Chef Eric W. McBride made a few recipes, including Dublin bacon coddle, Irish fried cabbage with bacon, and toffee pudding. The tastings were free.

Draft beer, which is very popular in Ireland, was available for visitors of age to enjoy. There were also activities available for younger age groups, known as the “Wee Folk” (Children’s) Area. In this area, there was mini golf, bean bag tosses, a “lollipop tree,” a fish bowl toss, a duck pond and airbrush tattoos.

Fresh, traditional Irish meats were incorporated in the festivals attractions. The Irish Market tents sold a number of authentic Irish food and goods throughout the festival. Photo by Nancy Shannon
Fresh, traditional Irish meats were incorporated in the festivals attractions. The Irish Market tents sold a number of authentic Irish food and goods throughout the festival. Photo by Nancy Shannon

The space featured four different stages for performers: North, South, East and West stages. Different performers were slated for each day of the event, including The High Kings, Jig Jams, Drowsy Lads and the Narrowbacks. An Irish Music Session tent was also set up, in which people could gather to play music and learn about the history and instruments in Irish tradition. A performance of speaking the Irish language also was presented for guests to learn as well.

On Sept. 17, the festival celebrated a Catholic mass and accepted donations of perishable items for the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank.The Kilted Mile took place at 2 p.m., after which awards were presented to the winners. Raffle tickets were also available for purchase during the festival for a round trip airfare to Ireland, $10 for one ticket and $40 for five. Proceeds went toward keeping Irish culture alive in Indiana.

Instructor in the Department of Communication at the University of Indianapolis Audrey Cunningham has been working at Indy Irish Fest for 15 years. She spent her time at the festival on the side of the South stage, introducing different acts and checking up on the other three stages.

“My husband is from Dublin, Ireland and we met here in Indianapolis,”Cunningham said. “He’s in one of the only bands that has performed here for all 22 years.”

Cunningham said that her favorite part about the festival is the people.

Irish Fest’s mission is “to preserve, promote and nurture the Irish culture, arts, music, sports and history,” according to the festival’s website, indyirishfest.com. “Our Annual festival is an opportunity to share Irish heritage during a weekend encompassing cultural activities and family fun.”

Sophomore cyber-security major Isabelle Christman attened the festival and said she enjoyed it.

“I’m not Irish, but I thought it was cool to see the Irish Culture and everything they stand for,” she said.

Christman also said she enjoyed the Irish food and found the music interesting.

Irish Fest accepts volunteers and more information about the festival and upcoming events can be found on their website.