Yellowstone, Glacier, the Rockies, wilderness, Native American tribes: those are things which may come to mind when you think of Montana. What might not come first to mind, though, is Ireland.

Montana has a long history of connection with Ireland, through centuries of people who came first as explorers and later to settle, and later still, to work in the mines. In Butte, a center of mining from early days, you will still find hundreds of Irish names listed in the phone book. It is a city which is very proud of its Irish heritage and connections.

Butte has been having a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade for more than a hundred years, and the people there celebrate their Irish American connections in summer, too. Each year in August An Ri Ra, the Montana Irish Festival, comes to the center of Butte.

The name An Ri Ra comes from the Irish words for uproar. Festival organizers make sure this lively sense of fun stays true for all the family. with children’s theater performances, workshops in singing, storytelling, and Irish history, food vendors, loads of Irish dancing, and of course, music. Each year the festival features Irish musicians from the western US as well as internationally known performers.

This year Dublin Gulch, a band named for a Butte neighborhood, will take the stage, as will The Glengarry Boys, Strings of Fire, the Cathie Ryan Band, and others. Festival dates this year are August 12, 13, and 14.

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