Mid August in Wisconsin: that means it must be time when a bit of Milwaukee turns into a bit of Ireland, at Irish Fest

This year, the four day festival begins with the Grand Hooley gathering on the evening of August 18th and runs through the traditional closing musical concert and fireworks on August 21st.During the time between festival goers can enjoy music, food, talks, crafts, workshops, travel ideas, all sorts of activities for children, storytelling, and more music. They could also find tips on how to trace Irish ancestors, learn how Irish lace is made, take in a play in Irish or brush up Irish language skills, and perhaps learn a bit more about the iconic Irish wolfhound breed.

It was three decades ago that a group of friends, volunteering to help out at Milwaukee’s Italian heritage festival, began taking about how they could start a festival to celebrate the Irish community. With less than three hundred dollars in the bank, a handful of committed volunteers, and a big idea, they did. All these years on, Irish Fest is considered a landmark event among the world’s festivals. In addition to the festival events, which now draw more than half a million visitors to the festival grounds on the shores of Lake Michigan,. Irish Fest has been able to sponsor a yearly music and culture series of workshops, an Irish music archive, scholarships for study of Ireland, and traveling exhibits on Irish culture, as well as contributions to charity. In addition festival organizers have become sources of advice for those planning festivals across the US and in other countries.

Each year different parts of the Irish world are featured during Irish Fest, and this year it is the turn of Ireland’s far northwest, the counties of Donegal in the republic and Derry in the north. There will be special exhibits and tourism information from these places, and musicians from Derry and Donegal are honored guests on the music stages as well.

Although there’s enough going on that you could spend your entire time at Irish Fest in the Cultural Village or with the food vendors or talking with the Celtic canines and never go to the music stages, music is really at the center of things, and there are plenty of chances to take it in. There will be more than one hundred acts appearing on sixteen stages, from big concert venues to children’s areas to small pubs. Corey Taratuta, .who publishes Irish Fireside, has found a way to balance things out. “The main stage acts are great,” he says, “but they can get chock a block with people. I like to wander by the the Snug and the Village Pub, too. You can pull up a stool and enjoy some great tunes.”

That sharing of music is part of things whatever size stage you visit. “People come, and they stay, whether it’s bright sunshine or lashings of rain,” says singer Aoife Clancy, who has appeared at the festival with her own band in a reunion show with Cherish the Ladies. The fiery fiddle work and inspires singing of Altan, from Donegal,t rising Scottish stars the Paul McKenna Band from Glasgow, and the hot fiddle based group Fidil from Donegal are among the headliners this year. Festival founder Ed Ward’s band B;larney will be having a reunion concert. Atlantic Wave and Bantry Bay are among other midwest based bands who’ll add their take on Irish music to the proceedings.

here is information about schedules, tickets, location and all sorts of other useful stuff for Irish Fest in Milwaukee.
The site is a lively read even if you’ll not be making it to shores of Lake Michigan in mid August, and there is information about Irish Fest sponsored events through the year there as well.


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