The 13th annual Irish Festival will be held Saturday, March 4, from noon to 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 5, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral.
The festival to "celebrate all things Irish" will open Sunday with a Roman Catholic Mass with this year's event dedicated to the memory of Joe Cobb, past club president and festival chairman.
"We have doubled the size of the tents and improved the layout," said 2017 chairman Jim Gillespie in a prepared statement. "So bring your family, your chairs and blankets and get energized with continuous live music. Eat great food. And give the Screaming Orphans a rousing Cape Coral welcome home."
In addition to the Screaming Orphans, "the lovable lasses from Donegal," attendees will enjoy Rathskeltair (Sunday) returning to the main stage from Jacksonville Beach with song writer, Trevor Tanner, to perform original rock-n-roll songs steeped in Celtic tradition. Performers include Fiona Molloy, from Derry, whose beautiful voice and talented guitar playing captures the heart; Ian Gould, Belfast guitarist and singer who shares pub spirit and conjures images of Ireland and who wryly warns, "If Irish eyes are smiling, you better watch your step;" as well as local favorites Celtic Stew and West of Galway, and returning Dubliner, Brendan Nolan, whose rich voice and Irish way with words helps listeners feel the pain, the joy, the humor, the triumph, the sadness, the longing, as deeply as they were expressed in the old songs of the Irish tradition. Brendan will also sing the Irish National Anthem in Gaelic at the Opening Ceremony on Saturday at noon.
Other entertainment will include the crowd-pleasing Lee County Pipes & Drums Band and dancing - lots of dancing with award-winning Irish step dancers and friends of the Festival, the returning Kellyn Celtic Arts Irish Dance Academy with their quick and precise steps, unique costumes and love for Irish dance.
For those curious about how to dance the Irish jig, stop by what promises to be a new festival favorite the Ceili Tent of folk dance, where dancers will demonstrate and teach traditional Irish dancing to the accompaniment of Brian Bonner, ballad singer and accordionist with his roots in Donegal.
The family festival will also feature Leprechaun Lane and the Children's Tent, for children 3 to 12 where there will be action galore - free face painting, supervised games, arts and crafts. New this year will be pay-as-you-go for teens, including tennis ball batting cage, rope jumping and rolling ball, and carnival rides for all ages.
Enjoy festival food at its best with corned beef & cabbage and other dishes from Fitzgerald's Irish Pub in Bonita Springs known for its famous pub grub. Also new this year will be craft beer from the Cape Coral Brewing Co. as well as Guinness stout, Harp and Smithwicks beers imported from Ireland. Reasonably priced: domestic beer $5; imported $6. A designated driver special will be offered.
The festival also will offer two 50/50 raffles each day and the chance to find your "pot o' gold" and win a Trip for two to the Emerald isle a value over $2500 for just $5 a ticket. Prize includes airfare from USA to Shannon or Dublin plus B&B and car rental for a week. Winner chooses when to go.
New this year: Save on admission by buying discounted tickets at the Cape Coral Irish American Club tent at the Cape Farmers Market in Club Square every Saturday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 'til Feb. 25. Discounted tickets: Adults $6, $8 at gate. Kids 12 & under Free.
Sun Splash Park is at 400 Santa Barbara Blvd, Cape Coral. Parking is free; no pets no coolers.
The Cape Irish Festival is sponsored by the Cape Coral Irish American Club, a nonprofit organization that supports scholarships and local businesses and always donates a portion of Festival proceeds to local charities. Check our website for details www.capecoralirishamericanclub.org.