Oh, to Be Irish in Milwaukee
Rodeghier, Kathy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Kathy Rodeghier Daily Herald Travel Editor
If you've ever attended a wedding reception for a couple of Irish descent you know what a knack Irish-Americans have for gaiety.
You'll hear Irish music, of course, maybe bagpipers and a fiddler, too. There will be lots of food and drink, blessings and toasts. And dancing - Grandma swaying to those fine old ballads, the young folks jumping to Irish rock and tykes trying out step dances, or maybe just another chicken dance, while their adoring relatives look on.
Now imagine 100 Irish wedding receptions going on at once and you'll have an inkling how it feels to stand in Milwaukee's festival park on the third weekend in August.
Milwaukee Irish Fest, Aug. 18-21 this year, isn't just the biggest Irish festival in the Midwest. It isn't just the biggest in the United States. It is the biggest festival of Irish music and culture in the world: more than 100 musical groups performing on 17 stages plus Irish sporting events, shops, dance, cultural exhibits and food.
"This is the best. Nothing else comes close," says Shay Clarke, owner of Blarney, Everything Irish in Schaumburg's Woodfield Shopping Center. The West Dundee resident attended his first Irish Fest after emigrating from Dublin in 1987. "I couldn't believe it. I'd never seen anything like it anywhere," he says.
An Irish Fest regular for 16 years, Clarke is a vendor in the festival marketplace. His business takes him to 24 annual Irish festivals around the country, but he says none compares to Milwaukee's. "It's the benchmark for Irish festivals everywhere."
In Boston, which has a large Irish population, you might get 14,000 or 15,000 people attending, Clarke says. Milwaukee Irish Fest puts its attendance at 130,000, twice that of the nation's second-largest Irish festival in Dublin, Ohio.
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Publication information: Article title: Oh, to Be Irish in Milwaukee. Contributors: Rodeghier, Kathy - Author. Newspaper title: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL). Publication date: July 31, 2005. Page number: 8. © 2009 Paddock Publications. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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