From the calendar

Annual Syracuse Irish Festival to take place this weekend

Courtesy of Syracuse Irish Festival

The Syracuse Irish Festival is celebrating nearly 20 years of bringing generations of Irish people together. The celebration of Irish culture brings CNY together for food, music and dance.

Nineteen years ago, two Irish bands and a crowd of about 200 people gathered in Armory Square for the first Syracuse Irish Festival. This weekend, more than 15,000 are expected to come out for two days of dancing, drinking and eating.

“We had a ball,” said Marty Cahill, chairperson and booking coordinator, about the initial gathering. “We kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger … it’s progressed very nicely.”

The 2017 Syracuse Irish Festival will be in Clinton Square Sept. 8 and 9, free for everyone.

Before joining the organization, Cahill developed an interest in his Irish heritage. A decade later, he travels all over the country to scope out bands performing at other Irish festivals. Planning begins nearly a year in advance and booking for next year’s festival will be done in coming months.

Several returning bands will perform at the event this weekend, including The Elders and The Moxie Strings. Coming all the way from Ireland on a United States tour, the groups Goitse and Aoife Scott Band will stop in Syracuse to perform as well.

It takes a group of dedicated people to keep the event running smoothly. The festival relies heavily on volunteers, who are responsible for everything from selling festival merchandise to helping the stage manager with setting up artists’ gear.

“Finding people isn’t always easy, but we’ve got a great core of volunteers who come back every year,” said Vince Christian, the volunteer coordinator for the event.

Christian’s involvement with the festival began as a volunteer at a food tent. While everyone is welcome and encouraged to stop by Clinton Square, volunteers are typically of Irish heritage, and there is a strong sense of community among those working the event.

“We all like each other, we all respect each other,” Cahill said. “Everyone involved in it just really loves what they’re doing.”

And what would a celebration of Irish culture be without a few pints of Guinness?

Similar to years past, there will be a Guinness pub next to the main stage where patrons will be able to learn to properly pour their own pint or half and half and keep the commemorative glass or spoon. New this year will be a pub sponsored by Ommegang Brewery based in Cooperstown, N.Y., that will be featuring different games and contests such as Kan Jam.

“The whole irish community, the whole Irish country is very family-oriented,” Cahill said. “ … It’s not just a few old men who are sitting there in the pubs. The whole families will go in there. So we try to develop that same kind of atmosphere down at the festival.”

mfbolan@syr.edu

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