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Annual fest prepares for Celtic cultural immersion

By Lauran Redemann
posted May 26, 2011

Celtic music and clovers are just the beginnings of merriment at the third annual Oshkosh Irish Fest, coming to the Leach Amphitheater June 3-5. Welcoming people of all ages, even the wee little ones, this year’s fest will include a raffle for a trip to Ireland and a five kilometer run or walk. Providing the Oshkosh area with authentic Irish food, dances, and musical entertainment, the cultural immersion promises a wide range of experiences.

“Irish Fest is similar to many of the ethnic festivals you’ll find in Milwaukee or other surrounding cities, but we differ mostly because of the state-of-the-art amphitheater we have and the beautiful park along the river,” said Oshkosh Irish Fest president Matt Miller. “Everyone visiting for the first time comments on how beautiful our grounds are.”

Irish Fest has more to entice visitors than just a beautiful location and park. The jam-packed itinerary begins with a Medieval Banquet in the Pub Tent Friday at 5:00 p.m., with special entertainment by Seamus Kennedy, Gaelic Storm, and U2Zoo.

“Gaelic Storm and U2Zoo are always big hits and are returning this year. Gaelic Storm got its start when they appeared in the movie Titanic, and have been growing ever since,” said Miller. “We also try to introduce new features, such as an Irish Medieval banquet and dinner show, where guests are encouraged to dress in costume and cannot use utensils to eat.”

The addition of the authentic banquet to the schedule features a five course meal served by the Roxy Restaurant of Oshkosh, with tickets costing $45.00 each. The gourmet includes corned beef, cabbage soup, chicken leg, and potato pancakes. Music for the evening will be provided by West’s own Madrigal Singers. Even after the night ends, the official after party continues at the Boat Yard Bar & Grill with more musical entertainment.

“We are also bringing in Kevin Flynn and the Avondale Ramblers and the band Whiskey of the Damned to our pub tent,” said Miller. “These two bands are more Celtic rock and play a lot of Dropkick Murphy’s or Flogging Molly songs.”

On Saturday, June 4 at 11:00 a.m., the day begins with the Irish Fest 5K charity run or walk, held to benefit the Cerebral Palsy of Mideast Wisconsin, and continues with a performance by Rising Gael at the Boat Yard Bar & Grill. Finishing Saturday with a bang, Irish Fest will present a special display of fireworks for the 2011 festival. Concluding the weekend of festivities on a high note, a 10:00 a.m. Irish Fest Mass on Sunday is held for free, with a donation of non-perishable food item to the Red Cross. With an expansive variety of entertainment for visitors, the most prominent source of fun is derived from the celebration of culture.

“Irish Fest is all about ‘Community Celebrating Culture.’ You’ll want to be at the fest to take part in all the excitement, listen to a lot of great music, taste some incredible food, and finally learn some neat history and culture,” said Miller.

Throughout the weekend, festival goers are invited to learn about Celtic culture from Irish experts. Children will also be immersed in culture through special games, putt-putt golf, crafts and many more exciting activities.

“The cultural tent has many exhibits on Ireland’s culture and rich history, and especially information of how much influence Irish immigrants had here in the Fox Cities,” said Miller.

Part of Oshkosh Festivals Inc., a non-profit organization, Irish Fest celebrates Oshkosh’s Irish and Celtic culture and companionate community. The money raised supports Cerebral Palsy of Mideast Wisconsin, Knights of Columbus, and other organizations. The festival is supported by many sponsors, such as Dublin’s Irish Pub, EAA, Run Away Shoes and more. Irish Fest is always looking for volunteers to help with the event.

“[Irish Fest] is a non-profit organization run completely on volunteers,” said Miller. “Most of [the volunteers] have Irish heritage and enjoy bringing this culture to Oshkosh. We love to see activities going on at the Leach, and most importantly, we love Irish music and the culture.”

Through the efforts of volunteers, Oshkosh is able to expand its repertoire of entertainment and tourism, with a final emphasis on culture.

“We believe that the Leach should have more professionally-run events and activities, which is why we volunteer and work so hard to make it a success,” said Miller. “Irish Fest features activities for every age group and we guarantee that everyone who comes out will have great fun.”

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