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Bringing a taste of Ireland to the Cape

Fifth Annual Irish American Festival March 7-8

February 23, 2009
By DREW WINCHESTER, dwinchester@breezenewspapers.com

Though the landscape of Cape Coral is far removed from the wind-swept homelands of Ireland, the traditions of that far off country still ring high and true.

The Fifth Annual Irish American Festival will soon return for another year celebrating the Irish cultures, with food, music and, of course, drink.

The festival will be held this year at the Bavarian Gardens of the German American Social Club, and the Irish American Club hopes the move from Cultural Park will help the event grow.

"This is the first year at the German American Club. We're trying to help each other out a bit," said event chair Bud Martin. "The Bavarian Gardens are a really nice facility. We're giving it a try and hoping to make it work for both of us."

The Irish American Club was incorporated in 2003 as a response to those in the community of Irish decent who wanted a club.

The club's focus is to celebrate and teach Irish history, art, dance, music, poetry and folklore.

Fact Box

To go

Who: Irish American Club

What: 5th Annual Irish American Club Festival

Where: Bavarian Gardens at German American Social

Club, Pine Island Road, Cape Coral

When: March 7 & 8, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Information: 540-2161 or e-mail maryoneill@yahoo.com

According to event secretary Mary O'Neill, there was an Irish American Club in the Cape during the 1980s, but that was club was eventually disbanded.

After the new club formed in '03, the first Irish American Festival happened a year later, and it is now working its way to becoming a full-blown Cape tradition.

Each year the number of festival-go-ers has risen, from the initial 2,200 at the first festival to the unexpected totals for this year.

O'Neill suspects the new location will really draw people, as Cultural Park posed many logistical problems.

"We really do expect more people. It's a good location people are familiar with," she said. "Cultural Park is hard to find and you had to park right in the park. On the other hand, the Bavarian Gardens is nice and laid out ... there are so many benefits: lighting, it's fenced, there's shade, a stage, trees, seating for over 1,000 people."

The events focus will indeed be the stage, which will host 19 different live stage acts over the two-day period. O'Neill said that two of the performers - Kathy and Andreas Durkin, and Tommy Barr - have traveled from Ireland to perform.

One of the performers will be 12-year-old Delaney O'Shea, winner of the Irish American Club's Richard Mahigan Scholarship Award.

O'Shea is a nationally known performer, at times travelling to Atlanta and Jacksonville to study with master's of the Irish dancing techniques.

O'Shea will be performing with the Drake School of Irish Dance (where she studies), and the Cape Coral Irish Club dancers. The young dancer will also represent the United States at the World Championships in Philadelphia.

"We really want to show people a taste of Irish culture," O'Neill said.

With St. Patrick's Day arriving just a week and a half later, there will be no better time for one to immerse themselves in Irish culture.

Indeed, it would seem like a natural fit to hold the festival on or near St. Patrick's Day, but that wasn't the case.

The Irish American Club held its annual festival on St. Patty's Day one year, but found there was just too much county-wide competition.

Bars, restaurants and even municipalities would have their own celebrations, pulling the focus away from the Irish American Club's festival.

"One year we had it on St. Patrick's Day and found it was not as successful as we had it expected it to be," O'Neill said. "We found we really needed to have it before St. Patty's Day, because of parades and other St. Patty's parties."

Food and drink will be as much a part of the festival as the music and continuous entertainment.

Corned beef and cabbage, Guinnes Stew, sausages, hot dogs, funnel cakes and potatoes pancakes are but a sampling of the delectables.

Then there's the adult beverages, of course, but O'Neill warned that the festival will not have imported Irish beers, instead featuring "premium beers that are comparable."

Even though the festival is more than two weeks away, O'Neill and Martin are already looking ahead to next year's shindig.

The duo almost immediately begin to put the following year's festival in motion, organizing the vendors and performers.

"When we end our festival, we really do start again. There's about eight months of intense planning and organization," she added. "It takes about a year to put it together."

So, come out on March 7-8, and celebrate the Irish American Club's 5th annual festival.

There's a $5 entry fee for adults, and $3 for college students with ID. Children under 12 are free.

Parking is free as well, and no coolers are permitted. There's no need for lawn chairs, as the Bavarian Gardens seats 1,000.

For more information, contact the Cape Coral Irish American Club at 540-2161, or by e-mail at maryoneill@yahoo.com.

 
 

 

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