Angela Morgan

Irish Fest 2012 showcases Bluegrass

This year's "largest and best Irish cultural event in North America," showcased Ireland's influence on Bluegrass. A TCD recap and photo gallery.

By - Aug 20th, 2012 01:43 pm

Currach boat races

The skies parted and the sun came out just in time for the start of the 31st annual Irish Fest held in Milwaukee, Aug. 16 to 19. The Smithsonian Institute calls it “the largest and best Irish cultural event in North America,” and with the numerous activities available to those who join in the celebration, it’s easy to see why. For one weekend, Milwaukee turns into a little Emerald Isle.

To celebrate the luck of the Irish, several landmarks in Milwaukee were flooded with green lights for the weekend including the Mitchell Park Domes, U.S. Bank Center, Irish Fest Center, the Bronze Fonz, the Hoan Bridge, and the Marquette Interchange.

Strolling Musicians: Trifecta Banjo Association

Irish music comes in its traditional form, but has also influenced many other genres of music. From rock to Bluegrass, you can find all incarnations of Celtic flavored themes in today’s music. This year’s music showcase was Bluegrass, paying tribute to Ireland’s influence on that genre. Bands like The Punch Brothers, Cornmeal, and Del McCoury performed at the festival and showed the audience how Celtic music has crossed over. Beyond all the featured Bluegrass performers, the International Bluegrass Museum traveling exhibit in the Cultural Village showcased the work of Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe.

Glencastle Irish Dancers

Beyond all the superb music, Irish Fest had plenty of activities to keep festival-goers busy for the duration of the weekend, including performances from several area Irish dance schools, Currach boat races, Irish language lessons, and Bodhran drum lessons. There was also a showcase of the nine breeds of Irish dogs, an exhibit on Titanic in this the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Belfast-built ship, an exhibit about the Irish in the world of boxing, Hurling demonstrations from the Milwaukee Hurling Club, Jameson tasting lounge, red hair and freckles contest, and of course shopping galore so you could get your own kilt.

Though the festival was only four days, the Irish Fest Center has several outreach programs throughout the year to continue their commitment to promote and preserve Irish culture. Until next year’s festival, be sure to find your very own kilt, sign up for some Irish dance lessons, be green, and be Gaelic.

Follow Angela Morgan on Twitter at @angelinephotog.

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