Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

For Celtic Culture, a Time to Bloom

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

For Celtic Culture, a Time to Bloom

Article excerpt

IRISH FESTIVAL

A few years back, Frank Shea bemoaned the fact there were no local Irish cultural celebrations like the ones he grew to treasure in Boston.

"I wanted to keep the culture of the Irish people, the Scottish people and the Welsh people alive," he said.

It was gently suggested by Maribeth Phillips, then board president for Lakewood Ranch Community Activities, that Shea might take the lead in organizing a festival. He did, and it met with success, attracting thousands to an afternoon of music, dancing, a costumed dog parade and authentic food.

"Why do people love St. Patricks' Day? It's spring. Green is the color of Ireland and the color of spring," Shea said. "It's a rebirth of seasons, a happy time of the year."

This year -- the fifth for the Irish Celtic Festival at Lakewood Ranch -- Shea arranged somewhat of a coup, booking County Cork native Cahal Dunne for the March 12 festival. Shea refers to Dunne as the "Irish Liberace." The internationally known singer, whose signature look is to wear a green tuxedo and play a white piano, is doing a series of Florida engagements before heading out on spring and summer tours.

Shea, a self-employed international marketing executive of engineering projects, has lived in Lakewood Ranch for 10 years. He earned the Most Enthusiastic Award among the Lakewood Ranch volunteers, much for his festival leadership.

Shea learned not to tinker too much with the festival formula. He also knows the event must appeal to a range of ages, including families, children and retirees who love their dogs. To attract the 20-to-40 age group, a beer relay race is new this year in an adults- only section.

The two biggest complaints he heard from those attending was they wanted more authentic entertainment and not to get sunburned.

He fixed both with the addition of a big tent to shade people watching musicians such as Dunne and Ballads & Bodrans, a favorite on the Irish pub circuit. Four area dance schools will showcase Irish performers. The Braden River Pipers will make an appearance.

The Manasota New World Celts members share their Celtic heritage. …

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